As students of all graduating classes flocked back to campus for second semester in January, a group of over eighty students were just beginning to orient themselves in their new environment. The class of 2019’s Winter Starts began their college careers here at Colorado College on Jan. 9, after spending their fall semester doing a wide range of activities.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to take a gap year, because that felt like a really long time,” said Willa Imhoff, a Class of 2019 winter start who spent her fall semester travelling in Latin America. “The gap semester seemed like the perfect amount of time.”
Imhoff, who hails from California, is not alone in her travels. CC sent 13 students to Europe for the fall semester program, where they travelled from “England to France, to Italy to Slovakia,” said Matthew Bonser, the Director of Admissions. Other winter starts did interesting things within the borders of the United States. Lily Green and John Feigelson both did a NOLS trip, while Emily Klockenbrink took community college courses before arriving in January. In spite of their differences, all agree that the time spent away from school was valuable.
“Definitely. 100 percent” said Green, when asked if she thought the semester off was worth it. “I think it’s really important to take some time off from learning to get excited about something new.”
“It made me really excited to go back to school and start learning” said Klockenbrink. “I missed being around people that were so excited to learn… and it definitely wasn’t quite that environment at our local community college.”
The admissions office also values the time off that these students take. They see it as a way to create a more diverse academic body.
“We are a rarity among liberal arts and sciences colleges in bringing students in mid-year for both first years and transfers” said Bonser. “Yet, that diversity of perspective and experience is important to the college in the classroom and well beyond.”
While taking the time off has its pros, it is not without its drawbacks. Many winter starts note that due to their late start, the social scene at CC has been difficult to integrate with at times.
“[The fall starts] already have their friend groups, so it can be kind of hard to like, reach out and be like ‘Hey can I hang out with you guys?’” said Imhoff. “It’s a little awkward.”
Winter start Chase Brown echoes this sentiment. “I feel like we are almost like… I wouldn’t say secluded but we kind of stick to the other winter starts,” said Brown.
“That’s kind of a common winter start thing,” said Green. Imhoff agreed: “[We] clump with other winter starts.”
Despite this, most find CC a welcoming community once the initial ice has been broken. Most of the winter starts branch out and find community within the various campus groups and activities. Green is now a member of SOSS as well as the Prison Project, Imhoff does yoga, and Feigelson rock climbs with the other members of his hall.
“I’ve been doing a lot of rock climbing, playing squash, and I just got into the Pottery adjunct,” said Brown. “Waking up at 5 a.m. has been kind of tough.”
There are a lot of things that attract people to CC’s campus, whether it is the mountains, the intimate classrooms, or the flexible starting schedule. But despite all this, it takes a whole lot more to keep them there and make them feel welcome. For Klockenbrink, it comes down to the people on campus and their friendliness.
“The student body makes it easy to be a winter start,” said Klockenbrink. “Because you are a new student, people are at first taken aback and then once you throw out the word winter start, people are immediately like oh my god that’s so cool!”