As summer wraps up, Alma College again opens its doors to the incoming freshmen class of 2026. To welcome the students to their new homes for the next four years, the college holds an annual freshmen orientation program called Tartan 101.
Tartan 101 is a four-day orientation program that offers numerous resources and activities to acclimate the new students to their new environment. Before the academic year, the students are divided into groups. Each group is led by their first-year guide [FYG] to help show them through the orientation schedule and answer any questions freshmen may have about Alma College.
Tartan 101 differs from many other college orientation programs in numerous aspects. Typically, a college or university holds freshmen orientation for one or two days, usually lasting 8-10 hours. Tartan 101, on the other hand, can have students participating in activities for 10-12 hours all four days.
Though many fun events are offered throughout the four days to help keep students engaged and interested, Tartan 101 primarily has students sitting in what I recall being boring lectures and presentations for the majority of the time. By the end of the orientation, students are typically burnt out and do not want to participate in the fun events scheduled on the last day.
On average, a student will have spent over fifteen hours in both lectures and presentations during orientation. Though these experiences can provide safety and essential information about the school, many students mentally check out. They go on their phones instead of paying attention to the presented material.
Nevertheless, freshmen orientation may have its drawbacks; it is an important event that serves an essential purpose for the school. Tartan 101 establishes the foundation for a successful career at Alma College by giving incoming students the resources and tools they will need to excel. Orientation allows students to explore their new home, tour around downtown and introduce them to how classroom lectures will be set up.
The events of Tartan 101 offer an excellent way for incoming freshmen to meet other classmates and faculty before the school year begins. For most students, college is the first time being away from home, away from the peers they have grown up with. Tartan 101 allows incoming students to meet and converse with their peers with whom they may have classes over the next four years. Seeing a familiar face walking into a classroom or the dining hall on the first day of classes can be a major anxiety reliever for countless students.
“Tartan 101 was an amazing experience that introduced me to many of my friends. When I came to Alma College, I knew no one here. My FYG was amazing as she was always eager during our check-ins. And I could continuously say hello to her in the hallways during the first week of school. It was always great to see a friendly face!” said Brent Triehl (’26).
One change I believe would make Tartan 101 a more enjoyable experience is shortening the activity days by one or two hours. This change can be implanted by starting orientation at 9 am instead of 8 am or ending earlier than the typical end time. Another proposal is to extend lunch and dinner by 30-60 minutes. This will allow students to eat and get some rest between scheduled events.
Overall, the goal of Tartan 101 is to create a welcoming and exciting experience for the incoming freshman class; the program usually ends as a tiring week process that many will look back at, glad they will never have to participate again.