Baylor University buzzed with life Thursday as a record-high 3,600 freshmen flooded the campus, many with family in tow, to start their college lives.
As freshmen and their parents pulled up in front of dorms, they were swarmed by a fleet of green-shirt-clad students helping unload and carry supplies up to the new students’ rooms.
“We had traffic, not unexpected, but we also had up to 3,000 volunteers, too, out there to help,” Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said. “Several years ago, before we started this, it was every man for themselves, total chaos. This has dropped a lot of stress levels down for families. Even if you’re in a line in your car, you still have air conditioning.”
It took five and a half hours to get all the vehicles unloaded across campus, said Kim Scott, director of campus recreation.
“I hope they felt, no matter what we might have said about, ‘Move your car this way,’ or, ‘Get in this lane,’ that they might have felt, ‘Hey, look at how many people are helping us,’ ” Scott said. “That kid in that car is really why we’re all here.”
Baylor University officials said that this year’s enrollment beat the school’s previous record of 3,259, set in 2010.
“It is very clear that Baylor has become a popular choice for students who, in record numbers, acted to ensure their spot in our incoming class,” said Jennifer Carron, assistant vice president of admission services, in a statement.
“Our enrollment systems were a bit overwhelmed by the volume of students paying deposits and entering our orientation process, but we are delighted by the record rise in students deciding to attend Baylor, and we are ready for them when they arrive. This year’s class will be one of the most talented and diverse in Baylor history.”
Signs lined the roads across the university to help freshmen find their way and volunteers were seen all across campus helping to guide newcomers to their new homes.
Megan Wilson, 18, arrived at Baylor on Thursday with her family and a dorm room’s worth of supplies. Wilson said she never thought she would leave Southern California for college, but that was before she visited the Lone Star State.
She said while her family toured Texas, they had the opportunity to drive across the Baylor campus and she quickly fell in love. When it came time to apply to college, Baylor had never left her heart, she said.
Allen resident Rachel Sangster, 18, said she’s a huge football fan and having only been on the campus a few hours she could sense the hype surrounding Baylor’s inaugural McLane Stadium game against Southern Methodist University.
But Sangster said the university is more than its team or its $266 million football palace on the banks of the Brazos River. She said she toured the university in seventh grade while on a mission trip. Several of the adult leaders in the group were Baylor alumni, and between their passion and her immediate love for the campus, it was an easy choice to apply there, she said.
Sangster said it was a little overwhelming to be swarmed by volunteers who began unloading her vehicle and taking all her supplies to her room. She said it made her nervous at first, but having everything done so quickly was a big help.
Fogleman said it won’t be until things are settled that the administration can begin to determine what areas of the university may be nearing capacity and in need of adjustments to handle the growth in population. She said there were a record number of deposits made, even after that amount had increased by $200.
“Because we had so many students place their deposits for this upcoming class, our admissions area is really considering a variety of changes for next year to make sure were on the front end of accommodating the students,” she said.
Scott said the way residence halls are built is unique because they are constructed with student security in mind. That’s great the rest of the year, but for move-in day it creates a hike for many students to carry their belongings to their dorms, she said. It’s part of the difficulty in planning move-in day because some of the halls only have one entrance, she said.
“A lot of them brought two cars and a lot of them brought a lot of stuff,” Scott said.
Of the 3,000 volunteers, about 2,400 of them were students, she said, adding they worked hard to help each freshmen that pulled up on campus.
Standing amongst a mass of students, Paul Zavacki, 51, of Colorado, held his phone up and took a picture of Kokernot Residence Hall, the new home for his daughter Katie.
“She toured a million campuses,” he said. “I’m glad she chose this one. It has a good pre-med program and is known for its academics.”