Community is at the heart of the Scholars experience. We lay the foundation for students’ time with Scholars and on campus through a series of annual traditions during their first week as college students. Building strong relationships, serving the greater community and learning about ways to get involved in and out of the classroom are all essential building blocks for a strong community—as well as a successful transition to college.
This is why our team of faculty and staff has been planning these first-week events since March. But students need to be proactive in ensuring their success, too. Here are some of our tips for getting off to a good start at the University of Maryland (UMD).
Pro Tip 1: Prep for Move-In Day.
You’re bringing the TV. Your roommate is bringing the fridge. Packing is important, but make sure you’ve got everything covered ahead of Move-In Day. Check out the Department of Resident Life’s tips on what you need to do before you arrive on campus.
Pro Tip 2: Practice your Rock, Paper, Scissors skills.
All 1,000 of our incoming Scholars will be coming together for the first time at Playfair, a dynamic team-building experience. It’s hard to describe just what Playfair is. It’s entertainment. It’s fun. It’s the perfect way to make new friendships across all 12 of our programs. And, it just might pit you in fierce competition against those new friends—so you might as well be prepared (our student worker, Amogh Arun, above left, and Administrative Coordinator Jess Krenek certainly are). Playfair takes place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 23 on the turf fields by Xfinity Center.
Pro Tip 3: Don’t leave Playfair until you’ve picked up your Scholars shirt!
After Playfair is over, don’t head back to your residence hall without a Scholars shirt. There are three great reasons for getting your Scholars shirt: 1. You need to wear it for Service Day the next day. 2. It’s free! 3. Another t-shirt in your closet = another day where you don’t have to do laundry.
Pro Tip 4: Bring a water bottle to Service Day.
Build community while serving the community: Students spend their first full day as Scholars performing volunteer work with their programs. You’ll help beautify schools like Paint Branch Elementary in Prince George’s County, pick up trash at parks like Bladensburg Waterfront Park or help sort through donations at nonprofit organizations like Community Forklift (which happens to have been founded by a Terp alum). Service Day is a prime example of the Scholars mission in action, as we emphasize active learning and putting our values into action. Students consistently describe Service Day as one of their most memorable experiences in Scholars… but it’ll be memorable for all the wrong reasons if you don’t have your water bottle with you. Late August is hot in Maryland! Service Day takes place Friday, Aug. 24. See your program page for timing.
Pro Tip 5: Meet up with your peer mentor before classes start.
Your Scholars peer mentor can give you a tour of campus and help you figure out the best route to get to your classes, so you’re ready when Monday rolls around.
Pro Tip 6: Bring your whole self to Scholars.
College Park Scholars is an inclusive community that not only welcomes and supports, but also benefits from, the diversity of its student body. To that end, the Scholars student dialogue group Queer Talks and the LGBT Equity Center will host an informal gathering on Sunday, Aug. 26, for new and returning students in the LGBTQ+ and allied communities. The LGBTQ+ Student Meetup is at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 26, in 1100 Cambridge Community Center.
Pro Tip 7: Keep your phone with you at Convocation.
Playfair. Service Day. Fall Welcome events. First week of classes. First Scholars colloquium. It all comes together at our sixth annual Scholars Convocation on Thursday, Aug. 30. At Convocation, first-year Scholars will learn more about who makes up this talented class; get a sense as to what makes Scholars, Scholars; and learn about our annual theme. But to take full part, you’ll want to have your phone handy (and maybe be ready to cheer). Convocation starts at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 30 in Dekelboum Concert Hall at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.
Pro Tip 8: Come early for the food, linger for the company.
This philosophy applies to a lot of Scholars and Fall Welcome events (like Bend and Bagels, where the first 50 students receive a Maryland flag yoga mat from Route One Apparel, founded by a Scholars alum). It’s particularly true for the Block Party, which has inflatables and giveaways and demonstrations and food! Arrive early for Rita’s Italian ice and Insomnia cookies. Take the time to talk to your fellow students and check out all of the ways to get involved in Scholars and at UMD. Block Party takes place 3:30 – 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 31 in the Cambridge Community quad.
Pro Tip 9: Get involved.
The heart of the Block Party is the avenue of booths where Scholars can learn more about a variety of student organizations and involvement opportunities. As with your entire Scholars experience, we encourage you to identify what you are passionate about and make a commitment to serve, give, create, speak or learn. The more you get involved, the more you’ll get out of your entire Scholars, and UMD, experience.
About the author:
Ben Parks is assistant director for College Park Scholars, focusing on intentional community building. He provides leadership for student affairs, diversity and inclusion, and community engagement. When he is not at work, he listens to too many podcasts and is an amateur food critic.