With spring approaching and the college application process ending, it’s that time of year when potential Bearcats come to visit. Willamette’s Bearcat Days are back and ready to welcome prospective students to campus.
Thursday, March 14 began the first Bearcat Days of 2019, and was filled with plenty of events organized to get future students involved and interested in the student life of Willamette. According to Jaelin Sonoda (‘20), Willamette’s current Opening Days coordinator, Bearcat Days is “a great way for students to get a feel for what being a Willamette student means.”
135 admitted students participated in Bearcat Days, several of whom arrived as early as Wednesday and left as late as Friday and were hosted by students living on campus.
With the hundreds of prospective students and parents on campus, there were always things to do and people to talk to. Many students found themselves out on the Mill Stream on Friday, as the sunny weather appeared just in time for prospective families. Events that occurred on Thursday and Friday included art exhibits at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art (featuring works by Kypriaka Chronika, Lucinda Parker, Cara Tomlinson and Ian J. Cohn), a Convocation about religion and science, a performance by the dance group paradigm, a poetry and social justice reading and performances by all three WU a cappella groups.
“I have served as a group facilitator for a few Bearcat Days mini Opening Days sessions,” said Sonoda. “We do an icebreaker with everyone, talk about what the school motto means to us and open ourselves up for any questions they might have about not only Willamette but the huge transition to college.”
Sonoda added, “I am always pleasantly surprised when I see students from Bearcat Days as Willamette students the next year, especially knowing that I played a part in that decision.”
As someone who also participated in Bearcat Days as a prospective student and has worked with the program since last year, Sonoda was happy to describe some of the joys and difficulties of Bearcat Days.
“My favorite part about Bearcat Days in general is seeing Willamette students and prospective students interact in genuine ways. For example, I had very real and raw conversations with students in the Bistro about what it is like transitioning to college and all of the stress, anxiety and fulfillment that can come with it I think a huge reason why I and many other people choose to come to Willamette is because of the community,” Sonoda said.
She said these raw conversations also come with some difficulties. “The most difficult part about Bearcat Days is trying to be honest with the students while still be encouraging and supportive. It is hard to talk about things, like getting homesick, because it is something that is very much a problem for me and something that I still struggle with, but being able to express how that should not deter students from committing can be hard to balance.”
Another organizer, James Kalama (‘21), described his involvement with the event and how it affected him.
“I am heavily involved with Bearcat Days as I work as an admission ambassador with the CLA Office of Admission,” he said. “I assisted with giving tours, showing prospective students and their families where to go and other logistics like organizing prospective students’ belongings in Cat Cavern with the other ambassadors for their overnight hosts. I also was present at our Access to Excellence luncheon — a program that serves primarily first generation and multicultural students — and conversed with quite a few students during our Closing Reception, because two years ago I was in their exact same position and want to show the Willamette University that I love with them.”
Kalama’s favorite part of working Bearcat Days was interacting with and getting to know the class of 2023.
“It’s always so interesting learning about their unique perspectives and experiences while of course helping them discover whether or not Willamette University is a good fit for their undergraduate studies.”
Bearcat Days is an important part of helping students make good college decisions and helps explain why many students choose to come here.
Sonada said, “I really believe that the students embody our motto ‘Not unto ourselves alone are we born’ through the way they create meaningful connections with people.”
Be on the lookout for more of these connections with prospective students and their families at the future Bearcat Days on April 4 and 18.