More than 2,000 first-year students will descend upon campus to begin their Notre Dame experience this year. The class of 2026, heralded as the most diverse and selective cohort to date, will move into residence halls and acclimate to the campus community around them through Welcome Weekend.
Welcome Weekend, the University’s annual process of orienting first-years, will involve the typical introduction to hall staff and fellow hallmates, connecting with faculty and staff and accessing academic, spiritual and wellness resources. In the days preceding the class of 2026’s first classes, student leaders and volunteers across campus will come together to embrace the new students.
Andrew Whittington, program director for first-year advising in the Center for University Advising, said the weekend serves as a gateway to many of the unique aspects of the Notre Dame experience.
“Our team of faculty, staff, and students seeks to share and invite students into the unique characteristics of our Catholic, Holy Cross undergraduate experience,” he wrote in an email.
Emily Orsini, program director for new student engagement and formation, said allowing new students to feel connected and build community were priorities.
“The most important part of welcoming the class of 2026 is to make sure every new student feels welcome,” Orsini wrote in an email. “We want to make sure we have diverse programming opportunities that students will be able to engage in. We want to create time and space throughout the weekend where new students can form connections with one another to start to build community.”
This year’s Welcome Weekend will feature reimagined aspects, including a scaled-back vision of the Moreau First-Year Experience class kickoff. Orsini said the University will also emphasize diversity, equity and inclusion in its programming during the weekend.
Staff also looked to add flexibility to the experience, developing periods of opt-in programming.
“That allows students to pick their own adventure and do what they need or want during that time. Students will have options to attend programs that campus partners have organized, hang out in the hall, take a nap, unpack, etc. We know how busy this weekend can be and we hope this time will provide students with what they need whether that be rest or participating in an activity,” Orsini said.
Whittington emphasized that Welcome Weekend is only the beginning of a much longer experience and no student is able to garner a complete sense of belonging in just a few days.
“But, Welcome Weekend’s combination of residential, curricular, and co-curricular engagement serves as an invitation, hopefully, an inspiring and dynamic invitation,” he wrote. “As far as my role goes, I’m in the business of communicating those first truths that each new student belongs here, can grow here, and can do good here.”
Orsini concurred that though the weekend is simply an introduction, it holds a lot of potential.
“I think it’s a time for students to start to familiarize themselves with the Notre Dame community as well as the resources and academic opportunities that are offered here,” she noted. “We hope Welcome Weekend is a time where students get excited about their time here from both the academic and social engagement perspectives.”
As Welcome Weekend committees arrived in dorms across campus preparing to help move in the class of 2026, Whittington wrote that the weekend provided an opportunity to embrace the incoming class.
“These new students, your new classmates, had the choice of joining any number of impressive university communities. They chose us. We’re just so darn grateful for that decision and are honored to celebrate them, learn more about them, and invite them to take their place alongside us as members of the Notre Dame family,” he stated.
A version of this story was published in our Aug. 19 print issue.