Class of 2026 Excites and Unites

Class of 2026 poses in front of Lone Mountain East. PHOTO COURTESY OF GO TEAM

The University of San Francisco welcomed 1,600 first-year students to campus this past week, bringing with them a palpable force, energy, and excitement for life. For a college that has approximately 6,000 undergraduate students, this year’s freshman class is outstanding in its size. 

The class of 2026 is likewise notable in their diversity. According to a video shared at the New Student Convocation, this class hails from over 40 states and almost 50 countries, with 97% receiving financial aid. Nearly 30% are the first in their families to go to college. 

Aside from the statistics, they are just as diverse in their interests, which range from professional skateboarding to podcasting to hula dancing. 

For Jayleen Dang, a first-year biology major from Aptos, Calif., this is precisely why she came to San Francisco. “The diversity here is what made me choose USF,” she said. “That and having opportunities just being in this city.” 

This year’s orientation was extended into a seven day period. In addition to typical events like tours of the Hilltop and introductions to campus resources, August’s orientation included the opportunity for students to choose their pick from a number of engaging activities, such as going to a San Francisco Giants baseball game or seeing an on-campus drag show from RuPaul Drag Race’s DeJa Skye in the War Memorial Gym at the Sobrato Center. 

Himatpreet Buttar, a third-year environmental science major, worked the event for a second year as a GO (Get Oriented) Team Leader. “This orientation was definitely longer and had much more going on than last year,” she said. “There were new activities and trips that we weren’t able to have in the past due to the pandemic. It was an amazing week.” 

“This year’s class is really diverse and it showed through all the new students I interacted with throughout orientation,” Buttar said. “They come from different places, different backgrounds, and different experiences. The one thing they all have in common is that they are super excited to be on campus.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic hit when this class were sophomores in high school. Over half of their high school years were met with isolation and loss. Coming out of this transformative moment, they bring with them to USF a spark for what the future holds. 

In a statement to the Foghorn, USF President Paul Fitzgerald, S.J., shared a similar sentiment. “During move-in day and at many orientation events since then, I have had many short conversations with members of the undergrad class of 2026, as well as with many new graduate and transfer students. I have been uniformly impressed by them, each in a unique way,” he stated. “It feels like they are quickly growing united in their diversity, laying the foundations of friendships that will last a lifetime. Now that classes have begun, they are also building relationships with their faculty as well.”

Eshaka Craberio Velasquo, a first year student from Santa Barbara, Calif., is anticipating the connections he can make throughout his time at USF. He is one of 1,300 first year students living on campus — the largest number in campus housing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to USF Spokesperson Kellie Samson. 

Dorming has only enhanced Craberio Velasquo’s sense of community: “I like my roommate, and all of the people on my floor are really friendly, the RAs and everything,” he said. “Making new friends and connections, meeting new people, that’s what I’m excited for.” 

Megan Robertson is the Foghorn’s news editor and a third-year media studies and performing arts and social justice double major. She can be reached at mrrobertson2@dons.usfca.edu

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