The Elon University community welcomed the 1,700 students from the Class of 2026 and more than 100 transfer students with open arms as these newest Elon students moved into their new homes.
With a handful of clothes on hangers in one hand and a box of belongings in the other, Lathan Rubant ’26 walked to his Colonnades dorm. Sweat was beading up on his face, but that didn’t dampen his enthusiasm about what lies ahead.
“It’s been exciting, a little nerve-wracking seeing all the people. But for the most part – fun,” said Rubant, a Roswell, Georgia-native set to major in nursing.
On Friday, Elon welcomed Rubant and more than 1,700 other students from 45 states and 24 countries to campus. The largest incoming class ever at Elon, the Class of 2026 is also one of the most diverse. Within this cohort, 19% percent self-recognize as ALANAM (African American, Latino/Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American, Alaska Native and multiracial), 10% as first-generation students, 11% as LGBTQIA and 6% are international students.
Mariana Fernandez ’26 is one international student who moved in on Friday. Coming from Puerto Rico, Fernandez sought an institution that prioritized community. After hearing about the university from an alumna and the detail with which she spoke, Fernandez knew that this would be the place for her.
“I liked the way she talked about it, she basically sold me on her experience here,” Fernandez said. “I wanted somewhere that felt right … and I like the community-building aspect of Elon.”
Her father, Carlos, echoed her sentiments about the culture at Elon and how efficient the move-in process had been. “It’s been seamless, no issues of any sort. Everything’s extremely well organized. And the people are so happy, it’s annoying,” he said, jokingly.
The day started with student, faculty and staff welcoming families with chants and cheers at the Schar Center entrance where students checked in and received a packet filled with what they would need to start at Elon — room keys, parking passes, Phoenix cards, schedules and plenty of educational materials.
Helping to set the tone for the festive and jovial day, the Fire of the Carolinas marching band paraded through campus playing Elon’s fight song and other spirited compositions. The university’s student-run radio station, WSOE, was set up in various residential neighborhoods to keep the energy high throughout the day. Members of Elon Campus Safety & Police helped manage the flow through main thoroughfares by directing vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Refreshment stations all over campus helped all stay cool and energetic throughout the morning.
In typical North Carolina fashion, what had been predicted as an overcast day ended up including plenty of sun in the morning. More than 600 faculty, staff and current student volunteers along with 98 student Orientation Leaders helped incoming students and families find their move-in destinations, unload vehicles, pushcarts to their dorm assignments and set up their new homes on the humid, sunny morning. Members of Elon Facilities Management played a major role in driving carts and trailers loaded with student belongings from vehicles to the front steps of Elon’s residential halls around campus.
Caroline Digan ’23 was one of those helping hands, working as a team lead for the Orientation Leaders. Being able to offer support for such a significant moment in the lives of students and families is why she decided to get involved.
“It’s exciting to see everybody come in. People have mixed feelings, whether it be excitement or concern or worry, it’s great to be a helping hand and a guide to show them that it’s all going to be OK and we’re here to help you,” Digan said.
Seeing the teary-eyed embraces of parents and children brought back memories of her own move-in experience. Remembering how scary that feeling can be for some of the incoming students, Digan offered this advice to help ease the transition and fully acclimate themselves to Elon. “Try everything, keep an open mind, and take challenges and risks. Don’t be afraid to fail. You got this,” she said.
Going through her third move-in experience, Lisa Strouse has always been impressed with the exceptional academics, activities and faculty. Her two eldest daughters, Alexandra ’22 and Julia ’24, have had terrific experiences at Elon and she expects her youngest, Elizabeth ’26, to have just as rewarding of an Elon experience. Although from Baltimore, Elizabeth said that Elon feels like her second home.
“I love Elon, everyone is so happy … it was the place I saw myself at the most,” she said.
Alex Everett ’26, from Arlington, Virginia toured Elon several times before he made the important decision of enrolling. But with each visit, he learned something new about Elon that he didn’t even know he wanted in a university.
Everett plans to get involved with intramural basketball and eventually study abroad – a category Elon has ranked No. 1 in for 17 consecutive years. He didn’t feel the need to take with him any sentimental item because he has his phone, and having the people that matter most to him just a phone call away means more than any object could.
“I can FaceTime my friends, my family, my brother. Yesterday, he said, ‘I have an iPod and an iPad, so we can stay in touch. That just melted my heart,” Everett said.
Like most students, Elon’s beautiful campus — a registered botanical garden — is what initially piqued Gemma Hutton’s interest. Potentially getting involved in YoungLife and club soccer were other points of interest for her. But after a while, the Hamilton, New Jersey, native realized there was much more beneath the surface, and it was the culture that made Elon special.
“Everyone we’ve walked past has stopped and said hi and went out of their way to be nice,” Hutton said. Jenine, Gemma’s mother, was just as impressed by the Elon hospitality. But more so in the university’s dedication to the student experience.
“I think it fits her personality and what she’s looking for like YoungLife and soccer. When we came Accepted Students Day, I was just really impressed by the presentations about teaching and helping students after they graduate to prepare them for their next steps,” Jenine said.
Move-in Day is the start of New Student Orientation, and the next several days will be filled with a range of activities and social events designed to help them smoothly transition into Elon. Saturday, Aug. 20, the Class of 2026 will gather Under the Oaks for New Student Convocation. President Connie Ledoux Book and other campus leaders will formally welcome the students as they embark on their journeys at the university.