The school year is starting again, and Mason’s campuses will soon be abuzz with the sights and sounds of arriving students. Among them? The Class of 2020.
These members of Mason’s newest class will join other students as they excitedly push green carts filled with pillows and bags of clothing through the parking garages and across campus to their new homes. The Johnson Center will be flush with laughter, ecstatic hugging, and the confused faces of those desperately seeking Robinson A for their 11:15 lab section. Starbucks will be fresh out of pastries by 9 a.m. and the lounges and tables will soon be occupied by burgeoning scholars feverishly highlighting textbooks.
The sidewalks will be life-like and energetic, and the Pokémon Go battles will be ruthless. Professors will mold young minds with thought-provoking lectures and notations in red pen. The residential halls will boast construction paper welcome signs, name tags and door decorations, and the ever-instructional bulletin board on adjusting to college life.
With the students’ arrival, each campus comes back to life.
As we welcome back our returning students, the budding freshman Class of 2020 will begin to appreciate the distinctive Mason experience. Part of this experience stems from their own diversity—and indeed, this incoming freshman class is one of the largest and most diverse the university has ever seen. Students hail from all over the state, the country, and the world; 95 international high schools are represented in the Class of 2020 alone, bringing a multitude of different populations together for the common purpose of education. As the university’s president Ángel Cabrera noted in his end-of-semester message for 2016, “One of the great benefits of being a large and diverse institution is having a wealth of backgrounds and perspectives that push us to think differently about Mason.” They also help Mason’s newest students think differently about the world.
In addition to where students hail from, other kinds of diversity only add to the university’s “wealth of backgrounds and perspectives.” During the last academic year, one in three students attending George Mason was first generation; one in eight was over the age of 25 (nontraditional) at time of entry; and nearly half were from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.
With this broad commitment to diversity and inclusion, Mason continues to make higher education a reality for those who might not otherwise have the opportunity. The Early Identification Program, for example, provides academic resources to middle and high school students who will be the first in their family to attend college. There are outside initiatives as well, such as the Mason Dreamers program, which helps provide aid to undocumented students who are ineligible for federal aid. Yet there is still much to be done.
Student financial needs range from tuition assistance and room and board to the additional costs of supplies, such as books. The textbooks alone that students will highlight and notate while studying for exams and term papers cost on average $1,150 a year for undergraduates and $1,400 for graduate students. In addition to scholarship support, there are also opportunities to give within schools, colleges, and departments. That means that even a modest gift can make a huge difference in the life of a deserving Mason student.