StartStrong is an event most every Meredith student is familiar with. Designed to introduce incoming students to the Meredith community, the day consists of a variety of activities designed to familiarize incoming students with both the campus and their new peers. This event is offered on four different days and led by members of the Student Advisor group. Student Advisors are selected by faculty for the purpose of assisting incoming freshmen and transfer students with their transition to Meredith by leading small groups of freshmen around campus to a variety of activities designed to prepare them for school in the Fall. This year, these sessions included presentations from Financial Aid, Technology Services and the StrengthsLab. This is also the day that new students receive their student IDs and have their first experiences with the dining hall.
As an incoming freshman, I (Clary) found the StartStrong experience to be beneficial. I attended on June 28, the last of the events held this year, and ultimately had a very positive experience. As an out-of-state student who’d only ever been on campus once before, being able to tour and experience campus was incredible. For the first time I could really see myself as a Meredith student. Additionally, as a (physically) disabled student, I was very happy to see that the event, along with the campus, was very accessible for me. The highlight of my day was getting to meet and talk with other incoming students, and I formed a few friendships that day that have made me feel more confident about moving to campus in the fall. As someone who’s been nervous about moving my entire life to a new state, being able to interact with my peers and form friendships with them was an invaluable experience.
Unfortunately, not all of my experience was positive. In my opinion, the weakness of StartStrong is the information sessions, which is regrettable considering that this is what students are there for. I understand the scheduling ease of making all of the events relatively the same amount of time, but some dragged on while others felt incredibly rushed. The rapid-fire nature of many of the presentations meant that actually absorbing the information shared was very difficult. The Technology Services session was too short for me to clarify what software I’m supposed to have downloaded on my laptop before starting classes, but the ‘Learning Your Strengths’ session ended 15 minutes early.
I ultimately found that the information I learned speaking with my group at lunch was more valuable than what was shared in session. Many other incoming students I have spoken to had similar experiences, where the value of the information shared felt disproportionate to the length of the presentations. Additionally, while the day of my event had decent weather, previous events were reportedly overwhelmingly hot and humid which detracted from the experience. Because of the time of year this event is held and location of Meredith College in famously-hot-and-humid Raleigh, it would probably be more comfortable for everyone to move as many events as possible indoors.
I (Anna) have been a Student Advisor for two years and this was my first experience participating in StartStrong as an in person event. My freshman year was the first time StartStrong was held virtually. At the time, I did live three hours away from campus and not having to make the drive for one day was nice. However, I missed out on some of the more important aspects of the event. My peers and I were unable to see each other and missed some of the team building activities that help establish early friendships at Meredith.
Being able to help facilitate some of these activities made up for missing my own StartStrong. The StartStrong event that I assisted at was held on June 13, 2022. The Student Advisor leadership team had met with all the Student Advisors before to discuss what had happened on the first day of StartStrong and what improvements they had made for a smoother day. Regardless of how well planned an event is, there are bound to be improvements that some wish to make. I wish that there had been more chances for my group to socialize and less information sessions. I doubt that the students in my group were able to remember everything on top of being overwhelmed by the first part of their college orientation. However, I genuinely enjoyed being able to help out with StartStrong and it appeared as though the group I was leading enjoyed it thoroughly as well.
Overall, we agree that the StartStrong event is a net positive one. However, there are a couple of issues that could be addressed to make the experience even better for incoming students. Better regulation of the length of specific presentations along with moving everything indoors would greatly improve the experience. Students are generally excited for StartStrong but the heat and overwhelming amount of information could cause them to shut down. It is important to remember that while we are trying to provide incoming students with all the resources they need, most information sessions can be shortened to an email for the student to easily recall back on.
By Anna Prince, Staff Writer, and Clary Taylor, Contributing Writer