I just got back a couple of days ago from Frosh Camp – Caltech’s annual introduction to freshman orientation. It’s held at a Marriott hotel on San Buenaventura State Beach:
There are a ton of things to do at frosh camp – things like hearing about first year classes, learning about study habits, meeting the deans and the IHC (InterHouse Committee – the presidents of all the Houses and a chair and secretary – it’s kinda important for student government), and hanging out at the beach. Actually, I went down one day and spent about an hour and half diving in the waves and body surfing – it was sunny and perfect beach weather for getting tossed around by waves.* It’s for all the prefrosh before classes start, along with UCCs from each house, as well as a few other upperclassmen. It’s a great opportunity to meet people in your class, as well as a few upperclassmen.
However, a completely unbiased perspective will say that the Challenges and Choice program is far and away the best part of frosh camp every year. It’s a series of skits, put on by a few student volunteers (like me!) and the counseling center, designed to introduce the prefrosh to some of the issues they may encounter during the year and resources for dealing with those issues. Examples include academic issues, finding a study group, dealing with the fact that everyone here is smarter than you, dating (oh god, the ratio!), roommate issues (I had a few of those…) and some more serious issues, like stress and depression.
We really stress the concept of the "safety net". The safety net is pretty simple – everyone here is part of it. While there are "legitimate" resources like RAs, deans, the counseling center, and other professionals, the student population and the Houses are a huge part of this safety net. People deal with all sorts of problems here at Caltech – I would be lying if I didn’t say it is very academically stressful here. Also, the age range here can be very stressful as you’re transitioning from a teenager to a young adult.
Everyone here at Caltech supports each other – UCCs and upperclassmen look out for frosh, but they look out for each other as well. If there’s one message we try to have everyone take away from Challenges and Choices, it’s that no issue you ever encounter at Caltech needs to be faced alone, and in fact everyone here wants to help and support each other. Success at Caltech doesn’t come from cramming and studying every minute, it comes from relying on those around you for help when you need it in any area of your life.
*Disclaimer: Don’t swim in big waves and heavy chop if you aren’t a very comfortable swimmer and with other very comfortable swimmers, and even then it’s questionable. I was definitely turned upside down and thrown into the sand under about 8 feet of water by one wave, and that’s pretty sketchy. Not encouraged.