For Class of 2024, a move-in day like no other

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Christine McGovern, the mother of five boys, helped move two sons into Union residence halls at the start of school in past years. So she knows the drill for move-in day:

Arrive early in the morning with a tightly packed car and squeeze into a precious parking spot.

Be greeted by members of an athletic team who help an army of students and their parents lug mini refrigerators, televisions and other college essentials up to the student’s room.

Set up the room, hang out (only for a bit), and be on your way.

As Union began officially welcoming the Class of 2024 with the first of two move-in days Friday, families learned that in a year of a global pandemic, the rituals of the college drop-off have been upended.

Instead of all students checking-in at the same time, arrivals are staggered to limit the number of people gathered in one place. More than 140 first-years were scheduled to arrive Friday, with another 180 Saturday. More than 100 are already on campus for pre-orientation activities.

Also, to avoid contact with a student’s personal belongings, no volunteers were present to help carry items. Oversized bins were provided to make it easier for families to pack belongings. Families were encouraged not to linger. And everyone is required to wear a mask.

A student moving into a dorm room on campus

Union began officially welcoming the Class of 2024 with the first of two move-in days Friday.

“It’s usually a bit of a frenzy,” McGovern said of move-in day and the organized chaos that signals the start of a new academic year. She and her husband, Brian, along with son, Kieran ’21, were helping Liam ’24 get settled in Davidson Hall. Charlie ’20 graduated in June.

“This is actually more peaceful and enjoyable. We didn’t know what to expect, but the College has done a good job with the process,” McGovern said.

A member of the lacrosse team, Liam McGovern followed nervously the announcements at other schools about their plans for the fall. He was excited to learn that Union would welcome students back to campus. He is taking one class in person, one remotely and one hybrid.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “People just have to be smart, work together and follow the rules. It’s not that hard.”

Before checking into their residence halls, all students must report to the COVID-19 testing site in Memorial Field House for mandatory testing. Each student is also given a COVID kit (which includes two masks, a digital thermometer and hand sanitizer) and other materials from Residential Life staffers in the Viniar Athletic Center. Regular testing will take place throughout the fall term.

“The process went smoothly,” said Sofia Cresta of Reading, Mass. after she completed her testing before heading to her room in Richmond Hall. She and other students must quarantine in their room before tests results are available, usually 24-48 hours. The College is delivering meals to each student.

“I wasn’t sure how it was going to work. I feel more relieved. Now it’s up to us to do our part.”

First-year students will participate in a series of virtual orientation activities throughout the weekend, including an official welcome from President David R. Harris and other College leaders.

More than 7,600 applicants vied to join the 470 that make up the Class of 2024. The students come from 29 states and the District of Columbia. They represent 21 countries, including Zimbabwe, China, Australia, New Zealand and Finland.

The class is one of the College’s most diverse and global, with 34 percent international or students of color. The academic standing is strong, with 58 percent of the class ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school class. Sixteen percent of the incoming students are first-generation students or the first in their immediate family to attend college.

Returning students will check in Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Fall term classes begin Wednesday, Sept. 9.

A virtual Opening Convocation, in which the Union community celebrates the official start of the academic year, will premiere on the College’s Facebook page at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9.