First-Year Orientation, FPOPs to be held virtually

Full orientation schedule accessible via Guidebook app

First-Year Orientation will be held Aug. 23–28 and First-Year Pre-Orientation Programs (FPOP) will be held the week of Aug. 17. All events will be virtual.

A schedule of all orientation events is available in an MIT guide on the Guidebook app.

First-Year Orientation

Director of First Year Advising and Programming Elizabeth Young wrote in an email to The Tech that orientation will resemble MIT’s “traditional schedule.” A “Kickoff event” will be held Aug. 23, followed by five mandatory meetings between students and their Orientation Leaders (OL) in small groups throughout the week. The small group meetings “will be scheduled by the OL on the first day of Orientation” to “accommodate students in different time zones,” Young wrote.

Young also wrote that Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz will host a mandatory Academics @ MIT event Aug. 24. Additionally, incoming first years will “meet with their first year advisor throughout the week to discuss academic options” and register for classes.

Attendance for the Orientation Kickoff, Academics @ MIT, and Aug. 28 Orientation Closing events, as well as the first year advisor and OL small group meetings throughout the week, is mandatory for incoming first years, Young wrote.

Young wrote that incoming first years can also elect from “a large number of events” to attend on Zoom, including “information sessions from departments,” “lab tours,” and “panel-type Q&A sessions with [Fraternities, Sororities, and Independent Living Groups] and the Fall Career Fair planning committee.” Additionally, students may attend events hosted on an “internal class-wide Slack workspace.”

Young wrote that OL applicants “were interviewed in small groups in early March.” Two “Logistics Coordinators” and 93 OLs were chosen from a “large” and “competitive” applicant pool, Young wrote.

Logistics Coordinators are “returning OLs who support the Office of the First Year [OFY] staff to plan and execute Orientation,” Young wrote, adding that the 12 of the OLs serving as “Captains” also played an important role in planning orientation.

Young wrote that having 93 OLs allows for small OL groups consisting “of 11-13 incoming students.”

OL groups were sorted into larger color teams for a virtual version of the “Color Flag Competition” usually held during orientation. Richard Colwell ’21, one of the OL captains, wrote that the competition began in June and continued throughout the summer this year because OL engagement with their teams began “earlier than usual.”

Competition events have included “various photo challenges for students to complete on a weekly basis with points being awarded to teams… based on weighted participation in these challenges,” Colwell wrote. Point values range from one to 12.

Colwell added that the competition has included easy challenges such as a “homemade meal,” medium challenges such as a “funky hairstyle,” hard challenges such as “designing a flag for your team,” and Zoom challenges such as making “a heart with your teammates.”

Color flag teams have socialized through various Slack channels and approximately monthly game nights, Colwell wrote. Some OL captains have also held “‘office hours’” for students to discuss “anything pertaining to MIT.”

According to the competition results website, the overall team scores range from 18 to 99 points as of press time. Three of the 12 color teams participated in the current week’s challenges.

Chelsea Truesdell, assistant dean of advising and new student programming, wrote in an email to The Tech that she estimates “50% of the class has participated in the Flag Competition” while “over 95%” of first years have engaged on Slack.


Young wrote that 22 FPOPs are running remotely this year. 

Six FPOPs offered in previous years elected not to participate in 2020, Young wrote. These FPOPs include the First-Year Outdoors Program (which involved kayaking in Boston Harbor), two Discover Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences programs (which involved visiting Yellowstone, which is currently closed, or Mt. Washington Observatory), and Discover PreHealth (which involved visiting local hospitals and doctors, who currently do not allow outside guests).

The OFY FPOP webpage writes that although applications for FPOPs with limited spots closed July 24, certain FPOPs will offer “modified virtual programming open to any interested student” and “do not require application.”

According to the guidebook, FPOPs that do not require application include Discover Materials Science and Engineering, Discover Brain and Cognitive Sciences, First Year Leadership Experience, Discover UROP, and Discover Aerospace.

Young wrote that the open FPOPs allow students “to drop in” whenever the FPOPs are hosting an event, permitting “students to engage in multiple programs, which has never been done before.”

“Approximately half of the incoming class will participate in an FPOP and although all programs are remote, we have still matched our historical participant numbers,” Young wrote, adding that 616 students will participate in the application based programs, “ranging in size from 14-70” students per program.

The process for registering new FPOPs has not changed due to COVID-19, although no new FPOPs were created for this year, Young wrote.

Young wrote that the process of implementing a new FPOP takes one “full year of planning.” Groups and departments begin “by assessing interest for this program.” Then, they determine how to fill four to five days with “8+ hours per day of program content” and determine the cost of the FPOP, “supplemented by participant fees” or “supported by their group [or] department.” Groups or departments interested in creating a new FPOP should meet with Taylor Pons, staff associate for advising and new student programming for the OFY.

Update 8/13/2020: This article was updated to include estimates for first-year engagement in orientiation-related events and resources as of Aug. 13.