Coe students ring in the new school year

Incoming students reach record levels, officials say

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The first day of orientation for Sean Connolly, like other incoming students at Coe College, is a mixture of nerves and excitement.

“It’s exciting, it’s been a long wait,” said Connolly, an 18-year-old from Boulder, Colo., who hopes to triple major in business administration, economics and political science. “The last two weeks were made up of anxious nights thinking about moving 800 miles from home, but once I got on campus, that all went away.”

On Saturday, after a rainy morning spent moving into his new home at Coe, Connolly rang in the new school year at the Coe Victory Bell with more than 400 incoming classmates as a part of a long-standing tradition to signal the start of students’ college careers.

Coe spokesman Rod Pritchard said students ring the bell twice during their Coe careers: once on move-in day and then again at graduation.

“It’s a highly meaningful ceremony that’s been taking place more than 20 years at Coe,” Pritchard said. “Students find it to be really gratifying, especially at graduation when they look back at how they’ve grown.”

School officials are expecting historically high enrollment for this year’s class, Pritchard said, but won’t be sure of the total number until the 10th day of class.

About 423 students attended the ceremony Saturday afternoon — a total that ties with Coe’s highest first-year class enrollment in history in 2014. The second highest was in 2013, at 418.

Pritchard said the bell-ringing tradition started in 1995, but the Victory Bell has long been a feature on campus. The first bell was a gift from the class of 1913, and Coe College has since gone through three bells. The current one was a gift from the class of 2000.

For the students, ringing the Victory Bell is a way to signal the newest milestone in their life.

“It felt like I just started a new chapter in my life,” Connolly said.

Several students’ parents and family members also attended the event.

“It’s a nice tradition. I hope to see (my son) ring it in four years,” said Tim Buback from Grafton, Wis., whose son — also named Tim — is an incoming student at Coe.

For Coe students like Sean McShane, a senior in film studies and psychology from Streamwood, Ill., the bell serves as a reminder of their first time on campus.

“Every time I look at that bell, I remember the person I used to be,” McShane said. “I feel like I’ve grown a lot and that I found myself” at Coe.

McShane, who is a co-orientation student leader, has been involved in orientation the last two years.

“To me, Coe is home, so welcoming freshmen is my chance to make it their home too,” McShane said.

Classes begin Wednesday.

SNAPSHOT OF COE’S CLASS OF 2020

The first year class of Coe College is settling into their role as college students, officials say they are reaching a historic number — perhaps even recording breaking — of students in the incoming class.

Here are the facts by the numbers:

Here is a snapshot of the incoming class at Coe:

• 40 percent of students are from Iowa

• 60 percent of students are from out-of-state

• 27.5 percent are students of color

• Average GPA: 3.6

• Average ACT score: 26

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