Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 8
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Jan-starts overcome awkward transition, find community

For first-year Whitman students starting their college experience in January, the transition, although difficult, is overwhelmingly fulfilling according to a variety of Jan-starts.

The class of 2015 grew by 17 students  at the beginning of second semester with the introduction of Jan-starts into first-year residential and academic life.

Credit: Allie Felt

These new students either chose to defer a semester, or were offered spring admission by the college. All are integrated within first-year residence halls, make up their own Encounters course (led by Professor Mitch Clearfield) and experience their own shortened version of first-year orientation. However, the transition into college life a semester after most have settled in provides its own challenges.

“The first few days were slightly awkward just because all the regular students were coming back and excited to see their old friends, and we were these random people wandering around their dorms,” said first-year Jan-start Brooke McKallor. “[However], once everyone settled in, I experienced so much kindness, and I felt really welcome!”

Jan-starts from years past echo McKallor’s thoughts. Sophomore Jan-start Andrew Martin equated his social experience to a “super-fast first-year orientation,” explaining that you make many friends quickly as a Jan-start, but many “fade away” since he didn’t “have a first semester to dabble around in friend groups” like the first-semester students did.

“I thought that the Jan-start experience was the best thing that could have happened for my social life and for my identity as a social human being,” said senior Jan-start Aaron Rosenbaum. “It almost felt like the Jan-starts were being treated like celebrities, since everyone was excited to meet the new students on campus.”

Rosenbaum also said that the other Jan-starts in his class “provided a great group of friends.” According to Rosenbaum, the relationship amongst the Jan-starts themselves is both unique and unifying. The Jan-start students typically become close throughout orientation week and within their Encounters course, mostly within each individual residence hall. A sense of solidarity and understanding runs within the group, which makes the social transition to Whitman life more understandable and not as intimidating.

“We were super tight at first. Especially the ones who lived in your dorm,” said Martin. “It’s like rolling your Scramble, your section and your core class into one beautiful jumble.”

The transition to college academics proves to be a challenge for some of these second semester first-years. After taking up to eight months off of schooling, getting back into the swing of studying, coupled with the difficulty of collegiate education comparatively to high school leads to some struggles in class.

“I felt like the only bad part of my Jan-start experience was the academic transition. Part of this is my own background having never taken a discussion-based class before, but much of it had to do with the lack of assistance, planning and support from the college,” said Rosenbaum. “First of all, registration times were last for Jan-starts and I was not able to get into classes that would have been interesting and important to take: especially as a science major: forcing me to take classes that were taught by visiting professors, which was not ideal. Normally freshmen get SA’s. However, I never felt like I had someone to go to for that help, after meeting them once during orientation, I never worked with them again.”

Academic stress, coupled with an added pressure to attempt to graduate in three and a half years, leads some Jan-starts to seek schooling during their first semester off, or forces them into staying at Whitman for more than the seven semesters needed to graduate. From each Jan-start class, some students end up staying at Whitman for an additional two semesters, instead graduating with the class under them. In Rosenbaum’s case, as a chemistry major, he lost a year of science classes due to his position as a Jan-start. However, not all Jan-starts feel the stresses of academia at the beginning of their Whitman career.

“I don’t feel as though being a Jan-start disadvantaged me academically,” said senior Jan-start Shannon Morrissey. “It provided an incentive to graduate early and save a semester’s worth of tuition, and I was still able to spend a semester off-campus.”

Despite the difficulties of beginning their college career later than a majority of students, the interviewed Jan-starts all seem to agree that their experiences, although hard, were fulfilling.

“It is definitely a unique way to start college!” said McKallor.

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