JumpStart Program Prepares Incoming Students for College

Karah Kemmerly

Walla Walla University (WWU) first organized the JumpStart orientation program in 1999. This September, first-years gathered on campus for the 14th annual JumpStart week.

The WWU Academic Advisement Office designed JumpStart to help incoming first-years prepare for the transition from high school to college. During the week of Sept. 22 to Sept. 28 this year, 26 groups of approximately 15 first-year students each got together with upperclassman JumpStart leaders to find out more about life at WWU before classes officially began.

A bike rests on the Walla Walla University Campus.

Photo by Marlena Sloss

Throughout the week, first-years attended information sessions about various aspects of life at WWU. Some session topics included campus safety, overcoming computer addiction, the benefits of liberal arts and the importance of academic honesty.

Additionally, students took part in break-out elective workshops and large group games and social events. These elective workshops are a chance for students to gain advice from WWU staff members about practical aspects of college life. Discussion themes range from learning about careers, to getting prepared for college-level academics, to exploring relationships in a college setting.

Junior health sciences major Ryan Thornton, who worked as a JumpStart leader this year, participated in a money management workshop when he participated in JumpStart as a first-year. With his group, he talked about making frugal financial decisions, particularly while grocery shopping.

“Some of it was just funny, but some of it was super helpful stuff I hadn’t thought of before,” said Thornton.

In addition to gaining tips from these sessions, first-years attending break-out workshops also learn a little more about navigating the campus. JumpStart leader Shannon Gaskill, a sophomore in the nursing program, emphasized the importance of activity locations.

“The break-out sessions are purposefully spread out so you could see where each building on campus was and get acquainted with them before school started,” she said.

According to JumpStart leader Justin Mock, a junior health science and business double major, learning the ins and outs of a new place is one of the most valuable effects of the JumpStart program.

“JumpStart gave you the chance to learn outside-the-classroom details. You got to learn how to use the cafeteria and how to find buildings. If you had to wait until classes started, that first week would be really stressful,” said Mock.

JumpStart also gives first-years the chance to get to know one another. Director of Academic Advisement Betty Duncan believes this opportunity to socialize with other first-years is an invaluable one.

“It helps them meet other students, and it introduces them to their academic departments and faculty … We believe that getting connected to each other and to the university is very important,” she said.

Thornton created bonds of friendship during JumpStart that have lasted his entire WWU career.

Photo by Marlena Sloss

“It was a great experience. I kept in contact with my JumpStart leader throughout the year,” said Thornton. “Three of my best friends now, I met in JumpStart.”

Of course first-years do not only interact with other students. They also have the chance to meet with faculty members and other important members of staff.

“The faculty and financial aid people are all there for you. Everyone is available that week if you need help figuring out your finances or figuring out how to register for classes,” said Mock.

Students pay a flat fee of $200 to participate in the JumpStart week. The fee covers all activities, materials and meals in the school cafeteria. JumpStart students also move into their dormitories early with no extra cost.

Overall, students are extremely happy with the experience.

“We always do a survey of the participating students at the end of the week, and the students are very positive about JumpStart. This year, 87 to 90 percent of students said it was well worth their time.”