Christopher Adams and 314 fellow incoming freshmen found themselves going through an emotional gamut of excitement and nervousness Wednesday at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
"It's just now starting to sink in," said Adams, a Ouachita Christian School graduate. "It's been about a month since graduation, and it's just now starting to hit me that I'm about to start college."
Adams was part of the first batch of new ULM students to attend the PREP Preview Registration Environment Program orientation session this year that helps students get acclimated to college life, meet new classmates, register for classes and, of course, have a good time in the process. In fact, the two-day session is so packed with information and fun events, it can be tiring, Adams said with a laugh while taking a break from cheers during a group spirit competition.
That competition saw some students whirling their new "ULM Warhawks" T-shirts in the air, a point of pride since the first group of PREP students were the first to receive merchandise bearing the name of the new ULM mascot. Nothing will go on sale until June 26.
Braylon Harris of Lake Charles said he is excited about being part of the first ULM class with the new mascot name and plenty of new construction on campus.
Harris chose ULM for its atmospheric science program. But he found himself pleasantly surprised at all the new student housing.
"I feel right at home here in Monroe," Harris said. "It's a great city ... the hospitality is great and the professors really seem to care."
The PREP sessions run through June 27-28, which is the only session with remaining availability, said Lisa Miller, ULM director of admissions. About 1,200 students will attend the mandatory sessions this summer, she said, with exemptions given for nontraditional and some out-of-state students.
But Wednesday also saw about 100 parents of students on campus as well, for the Parent Orientation Program (POP).
Craig and Sonia Dumont drove up from Houma so they could get a better feel for the university that gave their oldest daughter a band scholarship.
Sonia Dumont said she felt overwhelmed by the amount of information and kindness offered to them.
"I feel much more confident now," she said.
Tammy Spell of Lake Charles came up with her oldest daughter too, and has networked with local parents to the point that she has people to call when she is in town or if her daughter needs help.
The difficulty of having her eldest leave the nest first started at graduation, but Spell said she is saving her tears for moving day in August.
"But, I have a feeling I'll be driving up here a lot," she said.