Flair, ‘Newbie’ Shows and Wake-ups: How Clubs Welcome New Members
Two writers investigate how clubs initiate their new members and the accompanying traditions.
It’s the start of a school year: That means new classes, new faces and for most student organizations, new members. The excitement that comes with welcoming a new class manifests in unique ways for different clubs as they do their best to help these members, who are often also new to Dartmouth, find a sense of home. At a school where the majority of students participate in some type of extracurricular group, these communities can grow to feel like family. And in true Dartmouth style, a lot of that starts with tradition.
Although the induction process varies by group, one long-standing tradition appears to be quite popular across the board: “wake-ups.” Wake-ups usually consist of existing members waking up their newest class by banging and shouting at their door at around six in the morning, notifying the new members of their acceptance into the group. To add on to the initial confusion of these half-asleep inductees, the noise often surprises and alarms roommates who may not know about the tradition.
Once all the new members are collected and their grogginess shifts to excitement, the whole team usually drives to a diner, such as Four Aces or The Fort, for a group breakfast.
Isabella Sha ’27, a new member of women’s club tennis, recalled being woken up at around 7:45 a.m., joining the other team members to wake up her remaining new teammates and being driven to Four Aces Diner in West Lebanon for breakfast.
“I had a lot of fun,” she said. “I had chocolate banana pancakes, and I was really happy.”
Men’s club soccer has a similar tradition, according to Asher Vogel ’24, captain of the A team. The morning of wake-ups they take the entire team to Four Aces Diner and split the new members up among different tables so they each get to ask upperclassmen questions.
Rachel Horne ’24, one of two captains of women’s club soccer, also reflected fondly on the early morning tradition.
“Wake-ups is such a fun part of Dartmouth culture,” she said. “It’s probably the first time that they feel like part of a community with traditions, and I think that's a really special feeling.”
Even groups that don’t do wake-ups still find ways to help the new members bond in a fun way. Darren Morris ’27, a new member of men’s club volleyball, said that after he got his acceptance email, he was “super, super happy” and he looks forward to traditions such as “No Sleeves Day,” in which the team wears tank tops to practice.
But the fun certainly doesn’t stop there. According to Elizabeth Ding ’24, a member of Sheba Dance Troupe, Sheba makes it a priority to make their new members, affectionately called “newbies,” feel welcome even after the initial notification.
Besides encouraging new members to stand in front during practice and other bonding activities, Sheba also puts on a “newbie” show to showcase their new dancers and help them adjust to performing. Ding said that Sheba also holds “newbie” practices in which their new dancers “spend an extra hour a week outside of regular Sheba practice where the directors will help them with any dance styles they want to work on [or] any choreography they want extra help on.”
“It’s a way to foster both the community within the class and for them to feel more comfortable dancing with the team during normal practices,” Ding said.
Their family-like bond persists outside of dance, too. Sheba members frequently study together — calling this “Shebacademics” — take new members to places off campus like Ice Cream Fore-U and, in Ding’s case, run across the Green just to say hello to a fellow Sheba member.
“In general, we are very big on prioritizing that we are always going to be a resource for them when they need anything academic, social, dance [or other] Dartmouth-related things,” she said.
For ‘27s, this support can make a huge difference in their transition to Dartmouth. Morris emphasized how he was excited by the prospect of “having a group he can spend the next four years with, especially the [other] ’27s.”
This sentiment was echoed too by Horne: Soccer at Dartmouth has given her the opportunity to meet countless new people from different backgrounds through team bonding events. On the night of wake-ups, she said that the players “have a team dinner at our coach’s house … He always cooks pasta for us, and we all give advice to the ’27s and we do a lot of bonding that way.”
Women’s club soccer also carries out a tradition of teammate dates, in which they pair an older player with a younger player to go get food or coffee. With games, for which playing time is split evenly among the members, the team has hours of bonding time even while on the bench or on the way to the field.
“In cars to games we always make sure that [there are] ’27s in different cars, and they get to ask the upperclassmen a lot of questions,” Horne said.
Similarly, men’s club soccer integrates bonding and mentorship into their standard rhythm. The team will go to Foco after almost every practice, Vogel said, which provides a great opportunity for first-years to ask upperclassmen questions and make connections across class years.
Ding, Horne and Vogel all said they found friendships across different classes to be one of the most valuable things about being part of their respective groups, as it can be harder to form such connections outside of these organizations.
This enthusiasm and openness to each new class is definitely felt by the new members, as when Sha gratefully recalled the upperclassmen’s support throughout tryouts.
“They put an emphasis on the fact that your worth is not based on if you get in or not,” she said. “We’re all there because we share a passion.”
Despite all the unique differences between groups on campus, the one thing that everyone seems to agree upon is that club culture at its core captures the essence of Dartmouth. Sha remembered being told to dress up in flair for her first day of practice.
“I walked around campus in a blue bandana and a blue cape,” she said. “It’s a very Dartmouth thing … you wouldn’t feel confident to do that anywhere else.”
Though much of the club integration process is rooted in tradition, some of it is still evolving: Last year, Sheba did “reverse wake-ups” for the first time — where younger members wake up the seniors as if they were new members. As ’27s think towards their upperclassmen years, some are hoping to incorporate new traditions themselves. Sha said she would be interested in decorating new members’ dorms or dressing up in flair for wake-ups.
Of course, activities like dance and soccer and tennis are fun on their own. But at the end of the day, it’s the people and the bonds they help foster that make these groups such a special thing to be a part of.