Austin College faculty, administrators and student leaders are prepared to welcome nearly 440 new freshmen — the largest class in school history — to campus Friday in preparation for the start of the 170th year of the college. New student and transfer orientation will continue over the next several days, and returning students will make their way to campus next Tuesday and Wednesday.

President Steven P. O’Day is looking forward to students’ arrivals and the beginning of Fall Term 2018 and said he is enjoying his first experience of Austin College Opening of School traditions. He and his wife, Cece, plan to be out on campus Friday to welcome students and their families as they arrive for residence hall move-in and orientation activities.

The day will also include completion of required forms and gathering of necessary schedules and instructions, while leaving time to put rooms in order and perhaps visit area retailers to stock up on snacks, toiletries and other last-minute items.

The New Student Conference schedule will begin in earnest Saturday morning with official greetings and guidance from O’Day, student body president senior Clarissa Caballero Pinedo and campus administrators. The session will be followed by residence hall meetings, freshman seminar gatherings with classmates and faculty, various Student Life orientation sessions, and to end the day, a comedy entertainer.

The closing session for parents and families on Sunday will end their activities on campus and leave the freshmen to settle in on their own. A number of activities will remain for freshmen and transfer students to continue their preparation for the beginning of classes, including sessions on academic integrity, guidance on successful academic progress and residence hall adjustments from returning students, and the “First We Serve” volunteer project that Austin College freshman students have completed together the past several years, assembling nutritious food packets for shipment to those in need through the nonprofit Kids Against Hunger.

Returning students will move into campus housing Tuesday and Wednesday. Athletes and various student group leaders arrived early for practice and leadership training.

The academic year will officially get underway with the traditional Opening of School Convocation in Wynne Chapel on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The event begins with the entrance of the new students and then the procession of rising seniors in caps and gowns for the first time and the college faculty in full academic regalia. David Baker, professor of physics, serves as college marshal and leads the procession carrying the official college mace.

O’Day will present the opening address at the event, which also includes performances by the A Cappella Choir; the official Investiture of the Class of 2022 and presentation of the class banner to students; students’ presentation of the class Academic Integrity book to O’Day; and prayers for the new academic year.