DANBURY, Conn. -- Despite the 85-degree heat, several hundred members of the class of 2020 waited patiently in line outside the opening gates at Danbury's Western Connecticut State University on Friday afternoon to participate in the school's "Opening the Gates" ceremony.
Once the ribbon on the front gate was cut, the new students poured through it, heading straight into the next four years of their lives.
At the Midtown campus Quadrangle, WestConn President John B. Clark, as well as about 10 other school administrators, addressed students and parents.
Clark has just completed his first year as president of the university, so he said he can relate to the students as they begin a new journey.
He shared some tips with students on how to best succeed in their college career. Some of these include: "Attend all your classes," "study more, not less," "choose a major you enjoy and one that fits your career aspirations."
He also spoke of the importance of taking courses to broaden one's knowledge and participating in extra curricular activities.
Addressing parents, he said, "We at WestConn are educating the next generation of people who will live, work and raise families here. Your son or daughter will be the very fabric of our society and contribute to the success of our society."
He told the freshmen, "Our mission here is to give you the skills and knowledge to achieve and realize your great dreams.
"I look forward to the day when I have the great honor and joy of giving you your degree. The time will really fly so take advantage of all this university has to offer," he said.
Missy Alexander, WestConn's provost of student affairs, also shared advice with the students.
"We want you to take advantage of everything we offer here. Strive for excellence in all that you do," she said. "We hope for you to challenge us as often as we challenge you."
According to Sherri Hill, associate director of public relations at WestConn, this is the 10th year the university has held an opening gates ceremony.
Hill said this year's freshman class has grown from the previous year. "There are 1,536 incoming freshman and transfer students entering WestConn this year. This is a 15 percent increase from last year," she said.
Incoming senior and orientation leader Kaleigh Cragan, 21, said she has loved every minute of her time at WestConn. "I chose WestConn because it is affordable and close to home. Yet, when I came here, I realized home is not a place but a feeling.
"WestConn is a really inviting and close knit place. I took advantage of many opportunities to expand my horizons here," said Cragan, a communications major from Oxford, adding that her mother is a member of WestConn's Class of 1990.
Cristian Fitzgerald, an 18-year-old from Greenwich, said he is excited to be starting his college days. "I met a couple of guys at orientation and I'm looking forward to seeing them again.
"Also, I can't wait to start my major, digital interactive media arts and production," he said. "I was very involved at Greenwich High School with computers, music, video and production. At WestConn, I want to take it to the next level."