If you’ve done College Young Life for a minute, you’ve most likely learned the importance of the “Welcome Week” on your campus. Below is an example of our welcome week schedule. I’m sure not all of these events would translate exactly to your campus, but my hope is this might spark some inspiration for your own welcome week! For each event, I’ve included a few tips we’ve learned from our years of trial and error!
Pre Welcome Week – Pass out Popsicles
During Recruitment Week for the sororities, we hang outside and pass out popsicles to the girls sprinting from house to house! We buy the fun pop/freeze pop kind, roll them in a cooler into a high traffic area, and share them with anyone who walks by. Then we venture over to the residence halls where folks are moving in. When it’s close to 100 degrees outside almost everyone welcomes a free freeze pop!
MONDAY – First day of Classes “Tailgate on the Green”
We pop up the tailgate tents, have free pizza and sodas, play tailgate games, and give away free shirts to the first 150 students who come and fill out our Google Doc, collecting their contact information (it also asks if they’re interested in being a YL leader, gets them connected to a potential small group, and asks their knowledge of YL.) Then we just hang out! This takes place on campus in the middle of all the action. We’re between residence halls, the student union, and the largest library on campus. You can’t miss us. A few churches and other student groups have since started to host a similar event – so the green is one giant tailgate. Our t-shirts are super simple, school colors and we get them donated by the print shop that does all the greek life shirts. This night creates welcoming place to connect, it’s easy to find, and we collect as much info on students as possible! This is the list we use for the next few months to continue reaching out to students. Free swag and food motivate students to leave their rooms (even if their first few days have been tough) This is almost always our most attended event!
Tuesday – Student Involvement Fair + EVENT
Our campus hosts an involvement fair for all student groups – we have two leaders go to this… and then 30-45 minutes after this starts our event begins. We can send folks to the event if they want to get involved. This night has looked different various years… rainy weather is often an issue this week. Ultimate frisbee and freeze pops or spike ball somewhere in the middle of campus is our first choice! If the weather is bad… we usually meet at the Chik-fil-A for milkshakes.
Wednesday – First Club
Pretty self-explanatory… but here are a few tips. Have freshman arrive 30-minutes early. Then they know everyone showing up is new, there’s no fear of “everyone already knowing each other.” We do a mixer to help introduce them to one another and give them a name tag that is different from all the other students. Then they can identify one another once the rest of the crowd arrives! If your club can’t meet on campus weekly, try to have this first club in a main room or auditorium so it is easy to find. Then share instructions on where to find all future clubs. One of our main goals at this club is to help our new friends make as many new connections as they can! We want our everyone to laugh a lot, and meet people, and then to hear the Gospel. Post club hangouts (We go to Whataburger) allow the conversation to continue… we also break out into small groups at the end of club.
Thursday – Leader interest meeting + Campus Event
Meet on campus and share the vision for YL leading. Often there is a fun campus event on this night… so we will encourage folks to meet up before and head there together! We don’t want to compete against the event that “everyone” will be at… so we join them!
Friday – Stetson’s on the Moon
When Friday night hits, college students don’t want to be the ones left sitting in their room all alone. Even the ones who don’t want to go to a party will… if it means being surrounded by people and not feeling lonely. So give them a “cool” option! There’s a club in town that on Friday nights plays country music and teaches line dancing! We meet early for the line dancing instructions and then hang out for a while. If the night ends on the early side we’ll go grab food. Another option is a game night – host at upperclassman’s house and have the older college students invite the freshman to come join! They all want to be where other college students are hanging out.
Monday – Small Group Dessert Night
Come meet the small group leaders, get directions to your small group or figure out a carpool with other students! Super informal, but just helps new faces feel comfortable showing up with a small group for the first time!
Here are a handful of other events that have worked well!
- Pancake Night (have a theme…wear flannel for lumberjacks & flapjacks, etc)
- Grilled Cheese party (outside of a residence hall works great)
- Giant milkshake
- Gutter sundaes
- Scavenger Hunt on campus
- Our campus has a bowling alley… theme night at the bowling alley
- Putt putt tournament
- Game Night (board games, family or fishbowl, mafia – all great options!)
Welcome week is the busiest 10-15 consecutive days of the semester for our college team. But the momentum + excitement that comes from a new year allows us to meet more students in these first weeks than the rest of the semester combined. However, the best-planned events can only get you so far. My most critical piece of advice is Follow Up. Follow Up. Follow Up. Don’t forget to keep pursuing your students beyond the first three weeks of school. Many of them are spending those weeks trying new clubs, adventuring with new friends, pledging sororities + fraternities, etc. If they stop hearing from you they might not be inclined to respond on their own weeks later. If we can continue letting them know the invitation to join us is still available they are much more likely to get involved!