Fall semester kicking off with events through Aug. 24

The potential exists for a fourth straight year of record enrollment as the Western Carolina University community welcomes new and returning students for the start of the fall semester.

Fall classes start Monday, Aug. 17, but WCU’s official student headcount will be an unknown until the 10th class day Friday, Aug. 28, which is “census day” as specified by the University of North Carolina General Administration. Current indicators point to the possibility of another all-time high for WCU’s total enrollment, said Phil Cauley, the university’s director of student recruitment.

The recent upward trend in enrollment began in 2012, when 9,608 students attended WCU, followed by 10,107 in 2013 and 10,382 last year. At this time of year, student registration totals ebb and flow as final orientation sessions, course change periods, drop for nonpayment and late registration occur, Cauley said. “Stronger retention rates in the large entering first-year classes in recent years, solid transfer numbers and healthy distance learning registrations could add up to another total record enrollment,” he said.

Last year’s freshman class at WCU exceeded expectations at 1,745 students, the largest class of first-year students since an enrollment boom of the post-Vietnam mid-1970s, Cauley said. “While this fall’s entering first-year class will not challenge last year’s total, the fall 2015 entering class is expected to be the second- or third-largest entering class since the 1970s,” he said.

Week of Welcome and Valley Ballyhoo

The New Student Convocation on Friday, Aug. 14, kicks off Week of Welcome, a series of events for new and returning students that continues daily through Monday, Aug. 24. Following the convocation and class photo, Week of Welcome activities will turn toward athletics as the WCU women’s soccer team takes on Appalachian State in an exhibition game at 7 p.m. at the Catamount Athletics Complex.

WCU’s big welcome-back event for all students, Valley Ballyhoo, will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 15, on the Central Plaza. More than 5,000 students typically attend the celebration each year to pick up freebies among the dozens of information tables set up by campus and community organizations. The event also offers music, inflatable yard toys, food vendors and other entertainment.

Other activities on the Week of Welcome schedule are an outdoor movie on the Central Plaza on Sunday, Aug. 16; another women’s soccer exhibition game Aug. 17; the seventh annual Student Employment Fair and an intramural cornhole tournament Tuesday, Aug. 18; the “Are You Seeing Red?” Information Fair and a free concert by Tim Montana and the Shrednecks on Wednesday, Aug. 19; an Honors College cookout and Intercultural Fusion event Thursday, Aug. 20; an intramural sand volleyball tournament and more women’s soccer Friday, Aug. 21; and a swimming hole hike and “Meet the Cats” event Saturday, Aug. 22.

More information about Week of Welcome events is posted at wow.wcu.edu.