As hundreds of new students walked up the steps of Cochran Chapel to attend the 2023-2024 Matriculation Ceremony, the pews were noticeably absent of returning students to fill the space with applause and energy. Instead, this year’s ceremony, held on September 6, was reserved exclusively for new students.
Dr. Susan Esty, Dean of Students and Residential Life, was one of the principal coordinators of orientation this year. According to Esty, having only new students participate in matriculation was just a return to previous tradition.
“Matriculation, when I arrived at PA, was only for new students; and so it was that way for a long time. And then during Covid[-19], we had to pause because we couldn’t gather. So people were coming in and Covid[-19] testing and isolating for a while during a quarantine. When we could finally gather in crowds again, we thought it would be really nice to bring everybody back together in the Chapel,” said Esty.
Another factor that impacted matriculation this year was the staggered arrival schedule, according to Esty. Each cohort of students — student leaders, varsity athletes, new international students, new domestic students, and returning students — arrived on campus on separate days.
“Last year, pretty much everybody was back on [the] Saturday of Labor Day weekend. That Saturday night, every student was on campus. So that was different for us, and so we had matriculation with the whole school again… [This year,] we decided to go back to the old way, which was to bring in chunks of students based on what programming they were participating in, whether it was leadership training, or athletics, or the welcoming of new students,” said Esty.
Student reactions to this year’s matriculation ceremony were mixed. Alex Giarnese ’25, a Prefect in Rockwell House, mentioned the importance of supporting new students during matriculation, something that new students this year may have not received.
“It is a little bit unfair to [Juniors], because they weren’t given the opportunity to have that sense of community when they first come into the school and have people who are cheering for them. I do think that it would be great to have at least the option to go to matriculation if you want to because I do think that it is important for [Juniors] to feel like they’re being supported and have people that will be behind them,” said Giarnese.
Frank Hu ’26, a new Lower who attended the ceremony, spoke positively on the overall matriculation experience. Hu enjoyed the ceremony’s performances and programming but would have still appreciated more students attending.
“There was a piano performance and every clusters’ Co-Presidents got to speak a little bit. It was honestly pretty fun to be there and experience it. I think it would have been cooler to have everyone in the school. I think it [would] feel like a bigger occasion. But I understand because of the heat it would’ve been difficult. It was hot enough in the Chapel already with just a quarter of the [school]… With everyone in the school in the Chapel I think the heat would be unbearable,” said Hu.