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VIDEO: Science journalist Jonah Lehrer gives advice to the Willamette class of 2014 during their Opening Days orientation.

Opening Days

Opening Days

Opening Days

Willamette welcomes class of 2014

College is about more than just memorizing facts or filling your head with new thoughts — it's about learning how to think in the first place, science journalist Jonah Lehrer advised Willamette University's new undergraduate class this week.

The 432 first-year College of Liberal Arts students and 47 transfer students and their families arrived on campus Thursday for the five-day Opening Days orientation, leading up to the first day of classes on Aug. 31.

Lehrer, a Columbia graduate and former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford who has been called "an important new thinker" by the Los Angeles Times, addressed the class of 2014 and their families during their opening Convocation ceremony. Lehrer studies neuroscience and is a contributing editor at Wired magazine and Scientific American Mind.

He advised the students to be outsiders by experimenting with classes outside their comfort zone, relax and take a long walk when they reached stumbling blocks in their problem-solving, and make friends with many different types of people. All of his advice was based on research on how the brain works and what types of people are successful.

Be interdisciplinary, and "don't be afraid of being a lonely poet in a chemistry lecture," Lehrer said, an apt introduction to the liberal arts education the students will receive at Willamette.

Freshman class profile

This year's class was chosen from among the largest applicant pool in Willamette's history — more than 8,000. They made it through a tougher field than ever before, with only 42% of applicants being admitted, allowing Willamette to join the group of elite colleges and universities in the nation that admit fewer than 50% of their applicants.

More facts about the new class:

  • Their median SAT score is 1870, 50 points higher than last year's class, and their median ACT score is 28.
  • Their median high school GPA is 3.79 on a 4.0 scale, and 51% ranked in the top 10% of their high school graduating class — a 10% increase from last year.
  • Asian American, African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American and multiracial students make up 26% of the class — the highest in Willamette's history.
  • They come from 24 states and 17 countries, including the new international exchange students. The top five states represented are Oregon, California, Washington, Hawaii and Idaho.
  • Many held leadership positions and volunteered numerous hours in their schools and communities — already reflecting Willamette's motto, "Not unto ourselves alone are we born."

Before Opening Days began, 81 new students participated in Jump Start, a five-day pre-orientation program that allowed them to get to know each other in smaller groups while participating in activities related to their interests in community service, the outdoors or multicultural issues.

Besides moving into the residence halls, volunteering in Salem and learning about campus, students at Opening Days began College Colloquium, a first-year course that introduces them to academic life at Willamette while giving them a chance to explore a wide range of topics.

Graduate schools

Willamette's three graduate programs also started classes this month:

  • The College of Law welcomed 161 first-year law students. The new class is 44% female, 19% multicultural and the students come from 89 undergraduate institutions. Their median LSAT score is 156, and they are one of the strongest classes in the college's history.
  • Atkinson Graduate School of Management has 97 new MBA students, plus seven exchange students. The students come from 20 states and 19 countries. The MBA for Professionals programs in Portland and Salem also have strong classes, which start in September.
  • The Graduate School of Education had 84 new MAT students — 56 in the full-time program and 28 in the part-time program. Their average undergraduate GPA is 3.2, and just over 25% are Willamette College of Liberal Arts alumni. The school also welcomes 12 new students in its MEd program.