Cars filled with boxes and luggage poured into Gainesville last week, as thousands of incoming students made their first move toward a fulfilling college experience: Moving into a campus residence hall.
During this year’s three day move-in event, which began Thursday and ended Saturday, more than 7,800 students made UF’s campus residence halls their new home.
As part of the Division of Student Life, UF Housing & Residence Life manages 24 buildings and 8,021 individual rooms on campus, making fall move-in a huge undertaking. Logistics, efficiency and customer service are key.
“Not only are we excited to welcome home our students to UF, but so are the hundreds of faculty and staff volunteers from across campus,” said Brian Kelley, director of housing operations. “We believe with our staff’s preparation and the time of those across campus volunteering to help, we are able to make the move-in experience as seamless as possible.”
To help those efforts run smoothly, students receive emails with information pertaining to their residence hall and move-in procedures prior to arriving on campus. Housing staff also host social media “ask me anything” sessions to address questions ranging from parking to closet size. Students also select move-in appointments staggered by hour to ease vehicle traffic on campus and ensure staff are available to assist.
Among the friendly Gators ready to assist students this year as they pulled up during their appointed times: President Kent Fuchs and his wife Linda, who temporarily moved into East Hall to help students get settled and join in a few opening activities.
“It is a really fantastic opportunity for people to have an early touch point with new students setting the tone for the semester,” said Tina Horvath, senior director of Housing and Residence Life. “Volunteers are the ones carrying the boxes or helping welcome students when they get out of their cars. Largely, this is students’ first time living anywhere else besides their parents’ or their grandparents’ home. We know this is the moment that they get to live on their own, and it’s pretty monumental.”
Alexandra Kosoff is one of many first-year students who will live on campus this fall. On Saturday, the incoming environmental engineering student left her hometown of Tampa and moved into East Hall with the help of her dad and older sister.
Kosoff hadn’t met her roommate, apart from some brief exchanges on Instagram prior to moving in and she was slightly nervous about the new experiences like communal bathrooms. Nonetheless, she is excited to go to college and chose to live on campus because it seemed like the best option.
“I feel like if you’re an underclassman, that’s probably the way to go,” she said. “That’s how to make the most friends and get the most out of the college experience.”
Kossof is not alone. Nearly 80% of first-year students at UF live in residence halls. Statistics indicate that students have a positive experience living on campus, while making valuable connections. From 2020 to 2021, UF’s retention rate was 98% for on-campus students, compared to 95% for off-campus students. Similarly, a report from the Association of College and University Housing Officers – International showed that first-year students who live on campus are more likely to return for another year than those who do not live on campus. The report notes students living on campus have the benefits of closer proximity to classes, the availability of academic support services and the ability to closely interact with faculty and other students.
“From the time students arrive on campus our team is ready to support their transition to UF and welcome them home to their on-campus living experience,” Horvath said. “As students embrace the many firsts that college and a new environment bring, I encourage those living on campus to meet their resident assistants, say yes to new opportunities and get ready for one of the most impactful experiences of their college career. Move-in also kicks off the Great Gator Welcome, a campus-wide series of events where students will have opportunities to get connected to peers, staff and resources all while having lots of fun.”
In addition to the Great Gator Welcome, the Inter-Residence Hall Association has created a schedule of welcome events for students living on campus that will take place through Aug. 26. These events include midnight munchies social, ping-pong showdown, trivia night, make-a-splash, first day photos, bingo and bowling.
“Welcoming our students is campus-wide effort,” Horvath said. “It’s exciting to share with students what being a part of the Gator community means.”