It was move-in day Sunday for the Class of 2017, but for Grace Cohen-Pratt, the real work began in early summer. That's when the Wellesley, Mass., student created a seven-page packing list for her journey to Union.
The planner in the family, Cohen-Pratt categorized the things she would need at Richmond House, including food, clothing, shoes, toiletries and accessories. The list was meticulous (shirts were listed by type and quantity: long-sleeve, short sleeve, three-quarter sleeve); there was no way Cohen-Pratt could have forgotten anything.
After a summer spent collecting items on the list, she packed, labeled and stored the lot in her dad's home office until last week, when, her mom, Elizabeth, said smiling, "we donated our living room."
The planning paid off. By the time the family arrived at Union in the early morning, the tightly packed car was quickly unloaded and all of Cohen-Pratt's neatly stacked boxes, bins and bags (which she had plastered with her room number in hot pink tape), were whisked up to her third-floor room.
"You guys are awesome," a grateful Elizabeth said as several orientation advisors arrived to help make the move-in even easier. "This is heaven."
Scenes like that were repeated throughout the day at Richmond, Davidson House and West College for the official arrival of the Class of 2017.
The 564 first-year students were chosen from a record 5,725 applications, a 19 percent jump from four years ago. The admit rate was 37 percent, the school's lowest.
Representing 26 states and 13 countries, the class is also one of Union's brightest, with 63 percent of the students ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school class, a 5 percent increase from a year ago.
Inside West, John Miller Jr. of Glen Rock, N.J., had a secret weapon (actually two) to smooth his transition: his mom, Carol, and his 16-year-old sister, Lizzie. They organized the space and wiped down furniture while he and his dad, John Sr., carried belongings to his second-floor room.
While the younger John talked about why he chose Union (small size, beautiful campus, strong academic programs), over a host of other schools, including the University of Richmond and the University of Virginia, his father was impressed with the staff on hand to help.
"I thought this would be an all-day affair," he said as he stood in a hallway teeming with activity. "But the staff was very accommodating and exceptional. Our car was emptied out in seconds."
In mid-afternoon, the class received an official welcome from Acting President Therese McCarty and other College leaders in Memorial Chapel.
Before "handing off" the class to McCarty, Matt Malatesta, vice president for Admissions, Financial Aid and Enrollment, reminded the group that they were admitted during the College's most competitive year ever.
"We admitted you to Union because we see great potential in you," he said.
McCarty told students to "take care of each other," the traditional charge given by President Stephen C. Ainlay, who is on sabbatical until January. She indicated that this meant that they listen to each other, encourage each other and help each other be safe throughout their years at Union.
The class then said goodbye to their families before heading off to group orientation activities. Meanwhile, there were two new events for parents: a tea in Schaffer Library and a reception hosted by Alumni Relations outside Abbe Hall.
In the evening, the students posed for their class picture at the Nott Memorial. Orientation activities continue on Monday, with a full slate of programs.
Residence halls open for returning students Tuesday, Sept. 10.
Fall term classes begin Wednesday, Sept. 11.
Opening Convocation, in which the Union community celebrates the official start of the academic year, is set for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10 in Memorial Chapel, followed by an all-campus barbecue on Rugby Field.
To view a photo gallery on the College's Facebook, click here.