Remember Arriving on Campus? Now, Move-In Is a Major Event

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By Joe Wilensky

August has long been a time of change on the Hill, as thousands of Cornellians arrive on (or return to) campus for the fall semester. This year, the annual repopulation posed the largest logistical challenge ever, as the three newest residence halls on North Campus welcomed their first residents.

Today’s system of Move-In and Orientation is a multi-day, highly managed and staffed affair that connects to the University’s broader new-student experience. That includes varied programming for first-years, transfers, and their families—such as tours, open houses, info sessions, entertainment, lawn parties, receptions, and more.

(Additionally, about a quarter of new students get an even earlier start, participating in a bevy of pre-Orientation programming, from outdoor excursions and retreats to community service projects.)

Scenes from Move-In ’22

The effort to help 7,728 students settle into their rooms this fall relied heavily on staff and faculty volunteers—who filled the equivalent of 435 full-time shifts to assist with parking, directions, and coordinating the unloading of cars packed with belongings.

(The University even celebrated the many dogs who visited campus for Move-In in an Instagram Reel.)

“It’s a happy set of days, with very few complaints,” says Karen Brown, director of campus life marketing and communications, “even though it can be a stressful day for somebody who’s getting ready to say goodbye to their baby.”

In recent years—largely, to reduce crowds during the pandemic—the move-in process had been extended.

First-year students arriving by bus are welcomed to freshman registration on campus in 1958
First-years are welcomed in 1958. (Rare and Manuscript Collections)

This year’s shift to five full days (from three) saw first-years and transfers arrive Monday through Wednesday and returning students Thursday and Friday, with each arriving family scheduled for a time slot.

The process of acclimating to campus (which now includes receiving an extensive online to-do list before arrival) is very different from what many alumni remember from even a few decades ago, when it was far less official and scheduled.

“The student move-in experience has evolved a lot over the years—from the days of lone students on trains with steamer trunks to the present day, with its army of volunteers who greet new arrivals,” says University history expert Corey Earle ’07.

“However, the excitement and energy around the start of a new academic year hasn’t changed—with its mix of anxiety, anticipation, and opportunity.”

We asked alumni to share their Move-In memories; the following is a sampling of responses. Please add your own in the comments!

Three trains, one suitcase

“I recall my parents giving me a train ticket to send me from Milwaukee to Cornell alone, age 17, in the fall of 1953. With one large suitcase weighing almost as much as I did—and no wheels—I had to change trains in Chicago and Buffalo to finally arrive in Ithaca on the Lehigh Valley Railroad.

The University bus deposited me at the temporary dorms at the bottom of the Library Slope, where I dragged my suitcase up a flight of stairs to meet my two roommates.”

Carl Schwarz ’57, BCE ’58

‘No sense in us waiting around’

“My parents drove me and all my stuff packed into the back of our ancient station wagon on a beautiful day in August 1983. Then it was off to U-Hall 3, where four football players quickly heaved all my carefully collected and curated belongings into my tiny dorm room in a matter of minutes. They advised us to hightail it up to Lynah Rink to get my ID if I wanted to have dinner that night.

When we arrived, we discovered a sea of students wrapped around the building. ‘Well,’ my father said. ‘I guess this is it. No sense in us waiting around. See you in a few months.’ A few quick hugs and they were gone. I was on my own.

An hour later, with my Cornell ID in my pocket, I headed out, having only a vague sense that I needed to head downhill. I remember the thrill of navigating the campus and deciding to take whatever pathway interested me.”

— Jill Feasley ’87

Students, volunteers help with residence hall move in
Volunteers help students move into a room in the 1990s. (Rare and Manuscript Collections)

Have trunk, will travel

“I filled a trunk with clothes, a bedspread, towels, and other necessities. The boy next door said, ‘Connie, you have enough here for all four years!'

Somehow it was shipped by freight from my house to my single dorm room on the top floor of Clara Dickson. Unloaded, it disappeared until the end of the second semester. Who knows where Cornell stored it and all the others we co-eds had sent to campus? 

I still have that trunk, now filled with photos, my Cornell diploma, and who knows what else. It is covered and serves as an end table in my bedroom.”

— Connie Santagato Hosterman ’57

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Family members help a student move in during the late 1990s
Toting luggage on the Slope in the 1990s. (Rare and Manuscript Collections)

Tale of two fugitives

“I arrived on campus in the middle of Orientation week, assigned a single in U-Hall 5. I dumped my suitcase in the room and went to dinner. That night a relative of mine appeared at my door with a friend in tow. They needed a place to sleep—and, as it turned out, to hide.

Early the next morning came a pounding at the door. I cracked it open a few inches to find three police officers asking after my guests by name; I said I didn’t know where they were. During this exchange other doors on the hall popped open, and I had my first sight of my hallmates. The cops split.

Later that morning I started to meet my hallmates and introduce myself. It was a mark of their character that they neither shunned nor questioned me. I am in touch with some of them to this day, and we have never discussed it.”

— Dik Saalfeld ’80, BA ’81

Fizzy faux pas

“I had just arrived from Ohio, where I grew up. I joined my three roommates, all from New York or New Jersey. When I saw a vending machine outside our room, I said, ‘Wow, we have a pop machine!’ The resulting strange looks and chuckles made it clear that I wasn’t in the land of ‘pop’ anymore. With my move to Cornell, I had entered ‘soda’ land.”

— Joe Lyons ’98

I wasn’t in the land of ‘pop’ anymore. With my move to Cornell, I had entered ‘soda’ land.

Stairway to Dickson

“It was September 1950 when my father and I drove up to Clara Dickson, hopped out of the car, and looked around at my surroundings. My room was on the third floor and we started climbing the stairs, arms loaded with my clothes and bedding.”

Joanne Wilson Wietgrefe ’54

Compliments to the chef

“My parents and little brother, who was seven at the time, drove me up and helped me move into High Rise 5. The day itself was a big blur, but one memory that sticks out was taking my family to RPCC for our last meal together before they left.

After eating a little, my brother loudly exclaimed that he wished he was staying at Cornell for school because he would eat the pizza every day—it was that good! We all burst out laughing, and it made for a really cute moment before my family headed back home.”

— Kendra Bartell Saldana ’12

Move-In: Vintage Views

Getting the message

“U-Hall 5 was very utilitarian—as in spartan. The cinder block construction and the basics of a bed, desk, closet, and mirror made me realize that the only time I would spend in that room was to sleep.

I established a great routine of attending classes, working out at Teagle Hall, dinner at the Statler cafeteria, and studying at Uris Library. Since I realized that meeting as many people as possible would make my adjustment to Cornell easier, I schmoozed while I attended classes or went to the library and any other place I could meet people.

I knew I had achieved my transition when I’d come back to the dorm at night and the message board for phone calls was split in half. One side was marked ‘Everybody’ and the other half was marked ‘Steve Ludsin.’ I was at home on the Hill!”

— Steven Ludsin ’70

Top: Video scenes of Move-In 2022 by Cornell University.

Published August 22, 2022

What’s your most vivid memory of Move-In, Orientation, or other introduction to Cornell life?


  1. Camille Kandiko Howson, Class of 2002

    Cornell felt far from home and I didn’t know anyone when I arrived. My roommate (from another part of the country) and I arrived with the same cloud bedding. We knew immediately we’d get along great! I quickly learned that Cornell provided ways to find connections with ‘any person and any instruction in any study’

  2. gen, Class of 2015

    When I moved into North Campus in the fall of 2011, I recall dinner at Appel that night being a lobster feast! It was so fun seeing all my peers wearing plastic bibs with lobsters on them, ripping apart the claws, and eating corn on the cob and potatoes. I thought “I could get used to this!,” but I don’t think I saw Cornell Dining serve whole lobsters again throughout my four years.

  3. Kristen Zittel Winiecki, Class of 1991

    I moved into 3rd floor Donlan in the fall of 1987. My parents, class of ‘64 and ‘65 brought me to school in an Oldsmobile station wagon. My room was at the end of the hall, and my parents stopped 3 times to visit with people they knew! How is it that my dad’s grade school friend had a daughter living 4 doors away from me, my dad’s fraternity brother’s daughter was 3 doors away, and my mom’s college roommate was visiting friends from their town diagonally across the hall?! There I was, waiting not so patiently for THEM to finish socializing!

  4. Theo Seale, Class of 1983

    The summer after my high school graduation I contracted mononucleosis and my doctor determined I would not start the fall semester on time in 1978. My father drove me from the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Ithaca in January 1979 so that I could attend the Winter Session class of Food Chemistry, a freshman requirement at the time in the School of Hotel Administration. Sage Hall, originally built as a residential building that now is the Johnson Graduate School of Management, had a few suites on the top floor, one of which I shared with Eric Mund, who was also taking the class.
    It was a different freshman orientation than my soon-to-be Hotelie friends had experienced when they matriculated the previous Fall. Although I started a semester late, I caught up quickly to one of Cornell’s common traditions. Walking along then East Avenue (now Feeney Way), I headed to Noyes Lodge which was then a Cornell Dining facility (now the Martin Y. Tang Welcome Center). After the meal, I slipped on the bridge over Fall Creek on not quite snow, not quite ice, not quite rain, but on, as I later learned the name of this unique weather cocktail – Ithaca-tion. The precipitation found only on the campus of Cornell.

    • Samara Friedman, Class of 1997

      I also contracted mono over the summer prior to freshman year. I missed the Cornell Wilderness trip that I signed up for, for the week prior to orientation. But luckily, I was well enough to start freshman year on-time – just perhaps a bit fatigued.

  5. Teresa, Class of 1991

    Ah, Freshman orientation. That was the beginning of 4 wonderful years at Cornell.

  6. Ellen Phillips Warsaw, Class of 1988

    I arrived at Balch in August 1984 on what felt like the hottest, most humid day of the summer. My adjoining single was on the fifth floor in a building with only one service elevator. I was never so grateful for my strong and willing dad!

    When I saw the crowds for registration and course exchange, I was so excited about the opportunities ahead! I loved and miss my days on the hill!

  7. Benita Staadecker

    As a parent on move in day the emotions run the gamut from thrilled your child is at Cornell to sad that your child will never return the same again! You also feel the exhaustion of five trips to Target and wanting to have that last memorable conversation that won’t happen because your child is now waving goodbye while excitedly talking to new friends. Thanks, Mom!

  8. Shelley Winkler, Class of 1976

    Moved into Clara Dickson’s “wine cellar” for fall semester 1972 and wandered around clueless and in a daze. Within minutes a friendly face chatted with me and arranged to go to dinner at North Campus Union that evening….and 50 years later we are still friends!

  9. Melissa Yorks, Class of 1975

    I really don’t remember anything about move-in day at Cornell except going to the club “fair” because I was a transfer student and it was old hat for me! Besides I was only 60 miles from home and that made me more comfortable since I’d spent 2 years in college in Iowa. Back then there weren’t all those programs for parents or even the students and my parents helped me move my stuff into my room and headed for home. I was shocked that now they even have all sorts of things for parents of med students (at least at Columbia)!

  10. Wendy Goldberg, Class of 1974

    I remember arriving and wondering why I was leaving all my friends at home. Since it was around my birthday as well, my mom bought a birthday cake for me to share with total strangers. I felt lonely at first! I lived in the newly constructed north campus at the time

  11. Mark Wolcott, Class of 1983

    Since I came from a family of Cornellians, my parents insisted I live on North Campus as West Campus was known more as the party section. My first day on campus my mother helped me move into my room, we went over to pick up my dining card, then she dropped me off at Schoellkopf Field for my first Sprint (150’s) Football practice. Of course my freshman year I was on the Scout Team and I think 5th string, so that was kind of a reality check to sports at Cornell. Meanwhile the first class I attended was Writing from Experience in Goldwin-Smith Hall.

  12. Nick Waranoff, Class of 1967

    Orientation in the Gorge

    • Rich Holstein, Class of 1967

      Nick – quite a year following in Cayuga Heights at Phi Ep. Remote, but a BIG step up from University Halls. The faces today look the same but the Campus is fantastic! Congrats on retirement. Me too. Rich Holstein

  13. Theo Goldman, Class of 2024

    I wrote this piece published in the Ithaca Times about my son’s Cornell move in during the pandemic which I had hoped would be corrective after my own college self move in. It ended up actually being a great experience.

  14. Meli Mathis-Clark, Class of 2009

    I moved in August 2005, when we went to the convocation in Barton, my mom heard a squeal and three of her floor mates from Founders Hall her freshman year were all there, too, moving in their respective freshmen. She also took me to meet her favorite professor, Peter Kuniholm, who referred to me as Mini Andi all 4 years and would email me to come to his lab when his wife had baked cookies.

  15. Leslie MacKenzie Vasbinder, Class of 1980

    I had the privilege of living in 511 Lyon Hall as a freshman in the fall of 1976. My room looked down over West campus and the view was beautiful! There was no elevator or air conditioning so move-in was very hot and tiring. I met the other girls on my floor and we laughed about having to walk down the hall to our community bathroom. (Going up and down those stairs multiple times a day helped me not gain the typical freshman 15! ) Lyon Hall was an all-girls dorm back then with nice single rooms.

    We immediately met some men from Mennan Hall and all went to dinner together after our parents headed out. We painted our rooms that orientation week and really enjoyed all the activities to get to know each other. By the time classes started, we had some great new friends!

    • Stacey Miller Whomsley, Class of 1999

      I was 411 Lyon both Freshman and Sophomore years (class of ‘99). I was actually just on campus this week visiting with my kids and showed them Lyon. Living there, at the base of the clock tower & chimes, is one of my greatest memories from Cornell!

  16. Marisa Brook, Class of 2009

    It was 88 degrees with 100% humidity when my father and I arrived in Ithaca in August 2005. Coming from a far gentler climate where summer thunderstorms are almost unheard-of, I barely managed to conceal how unnerved I was. I loved the campus and really wanted to settle in and enjoy PREPARE (international students’ early extra orientation), but easier said than done. As soon as my dad left to return to the Syracuse airport and I was alone in the room, I had no idea what to do next and couldn’t regain a grip on my earlier conviction that this whole thing was a good idea. After about an hour, I decided to just go distract myself by heading to Appel Commons, getting some dinner, acting braver than I was feeling, and sitting down with some other newcomers to talk. I don’t remember who any of those people were now (hi to any reading this!), but I felt a lot better after meeting a bunch of other new Cornellians from outside the U.S. After doing this, getting some sleep, and feeling warmly welcomed at PREPARE, I had no more days of uncertainty/apprehension about whether I’d made the right choice for me. Instead, even though there were still lots of firsts ahead, I had a sense of belonging at Cornell within days. It has never left.

  17. Kristi Krulcik, Class of 2016

    I was lucky to live in the newer Court-Kay-Bauer Hall as a freshman. I asked for a single room and, while I appreciated the privacy and having space to myself, I eventually realized that I thrived when having someone to talk to. Starting spring semester, I made a point of having a meal with one other person at least once a day; Cornell started to feel a lot less lonely! I remember struggling at first to find people that I connected with, but the people I met in that first week alone ended up becoming special friends: (1) On the first night, there was an activity where you had to find your “birthday buddies” (people with the same birthday as you). We were probably the only birthday buddies who kept in touch and celebrated our birthdays and half-birthdays together while at Cornell! (2) On the second night, I made friends with two girls who attended the orientation event. One week later, I was there when one of them met their future husband! I was their Maid of Honor years later. (3) I spent my time at Cornell getting involved in several clubs and attending as many events as I could fit into my schedule. I was able to make friends with people who also took advantage of the discussions, lectures, speeches, cultural events, festivals, performances, and more that Cornell has to offer. Cornell has so many opportunities to explore and people to meet – I encourage everyone to embrace it all! By the time I left Cornell, there was always someone familiar to wave to on walks throughout campus. It’s a special place that can sometimes feel huge, but eventually feels like a close community.

  18. Stephanie (Cohn) Robinson, Class of 1984

    I distinctly remember moving into U Hall 2 in 1980. My roommate and I had never seen a photo of each other, but immediately recognized one another outside the dorm based on descriptions in our correspondence. We became best friends right away and lived together all 4 years at Cornell, except when she was at Semester at Sea and I was at Cornell-in-Washington. So many great memories of the beautiful campus, hockey games, studying in Uris, Sunday brunch in the old Noyes, our fantastic room with (non-working) fireplace on the 4th floor of Baker Tower, traying on the Slope, etc. I’ve so enjoyed returning to campus with my daughters there as students.

  19. Susan Goodspeed Anderson, Class of 1961

    My arrival as a freshman at Cornell was full of mixed feelings. I don’t remember any orientation, just mom and dad helping to carry belongings up many stairs in Clara Dickson. I was familiar with the campus since my father was a Cornellian and we are descendants of Ezra. We had visited the campus often. I was from a small upstate town and somewhat intimidated by lots of students from the city. As years went by I became an RA and took part in orientation. Cornell was home.

  20. Michel DEL BUONO, Ph.D., Class of 1975

    It is a mark of change to note how many dorms did not exist when I attended Cornell.. and though I have returned to campus many times, Ithaca being halfway between Washington where I lived and Montréal, where my parents lived, I no longer recognize the campus easily. That’s life, that’s change.

  21. Stephan H. Goldstein, Class of 1965

    My comment is not about “moving in,“ but is rather about what I saw during Registration which took place in the Fall of 1961. Registration was in Barton Hall and took about 10 hours, a long time to stand in line. (I think they changed the system the next year.) For me what was so noteworthy was that while I was standing in line at Barton, I looked across the street and was watching the football team practicing at Schoellkopf. Non-football fans and anyone younger than I will not appreciate what I saw that day. I was watching a place kicker who was striking the ball with incredible accuracy and distance with a soccer style kick. As a football fan I couldn’t believe my eyes. Until that time every place kicker struck the ball with his toe straight on. Little did I know that I was watching football history being made. That place kicker was Pete Gogolak, I think class of ‘63, who was the first soccer style place kicker in football. His younger brother who went to Princeton was probably the second. Within a couple of years all place kickers at all levels of the sport, high school, college and professional, adopted soccer-style kicking. Having that memory certainly makes that 10 hours in line well worth it.

  22. Ted Rauch, Class of 1961

    I have a very vivid memory of moving in day. I had been coming to campus annually from the time I was 8 years old ( father class of 1924)…so I had a pretty good idea of the surroundings in September 1957. Dropped off at #1 UH with 2 bags in hand, I checked in and my roommate and I headed down Stewart Ave. to Jim’s Place for the beginning of the best 4 years of my life!

  23. ALLAN MITCHELL, Class of 1946

    The amount of stuff the freshmen of today bring to college is unbelievable to me. I entered Cornell in October 1944, as Cornell was on the trimester system with my one small suitcase. My Dad, Class of 1912 drove me to Ithaca a short drive from home and dropped me off at a private residence below Collegetown where I had a rented room. I was on my own. Since it was war time all the dorms were occupied by the Army, Navy, and Marines. I managed to get to orientation which was brief and then classes started. I left in late January and entered the Navy. Returned in 1946 and was put in the Blue Room in Sage Hall with 19 other students for a term. With all the Vets entering college living space was short. For me that was an exciting time.

    • Richard Patchen, Class of 1974

      Sounds like the Allan Mitchell I have known all my life. A fine neighbor gentleman, father of my friend and neighbor George(“Duke”-ALS ’73 whom I survived with in his basement apartment in Jan-June ’73),and the truly good man that was always there for my family in times of need. Last year (2021) he stood ramrod erect while holding our flag for the local Memorial Day commemoration-in full uniform from “back in the day”. He is proud of Cornell and Cornell should be proud of Him. Richard C. Patchen, Hum Ec ’74

  24. Lois Jordahl, Class of 1986

    My strongest memory of arriving at Cornell in Aug 1982 was disappointing my mother because I wouldn’t keep the “Cornell or Bust” sign in the back window of the RV once we arrived on campus. My parents and I had traveled in my grandparents’ motorhome from Oregon all the way to Ithaca, WITH the sign! But once we got on campus I became shy and self-conscious. I still wish I hadn’t taken it down!

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