Once baggers, now students
For years, the office of admission here at Carnegie Mellon has invited applicants to participate in one of the university’s most anticipated undergraduate events: Sleeping Bag Weekend. During their stay on campus, applicants spend their evening at the dorms and then follow their hosts to classes the next day. All in all, this experience is one of the most accurate ways by which prospective students can get a proper understanding of our university.
For many, the effects of Sleeping Bag Weekend vary greatly. For some students, it proved to be the breaking point for their collegiate decisions. “Your experience during Sleeping Bag Weekend is determined almost entirely on your likeness to your host,” said Adam Rosini, an undecided first-year in H&SS. “I always see cool baggers paired up with weird hosts, or vice versa, and I can’t help thinking how that kid’s opinion of Carnegie Mellon is either going to be ruined or improved by his or her relationship with that host.”
This can be a terrifying notion, but for those of us who chose not to participate in Sleeping Bag Weekend, and for those baggers arriving on campus this weekend, some accounts of experiences might be of great value.
For first-year CIT student Paul Dagnelie, Sleeping Bag Weekend was a deciding factor in his choice to come to Carnegie Mellon. “Before I did my Sleeping Bag Weekend, I thought I was going to come to Carnegie Mellon, but I wasn’t sure, so I decided to do a Sleeping Bag Weekend to really solidify my opinion,” Dagnelie said. “At first, it felt a little weird and strange, but then after a while I really got to know my host and his friends and I really enjoyed myself. I felt as if I really fit in amongst this group of people that I had never met before. I felt at ease and at home, and the fact that I could do all of that in maybe a day or two made me feel as if Carnegie Mellon was really the place for me.”
For Dagnelie, it wasn’t so much his host that made the experience worthwhile, but the community as a whole. “My host was distracted with exams and stuff, so he wasn’t super attentive, but that meant that I got to meet a bunch of different people on his floor as opposed to hanging out with one person the whole time. That actually ended up being an advantage,” he said.
However, not all baggers are as lucky as Dagnelie. “I don’t think my sleeping bag experience was a remotely accurate representation of what Carnegie Mellon is like,” said first-year CIT student John Rushing. “Sleeping Bag Weekend, for me, was a gigantic waste of time. My host was pledging a fraternity and working with a bunch of his friends in EMS [Emergency Medical Services], so at night we did fraternity stuff and then spent the rest of the weekend posting flyers for a blood drive. I had just had midterms so I was very tired, but my host stayed up and played Guitar Hero until, like, seven in the morning. There were three baggers all stuffed in one room in Hamerschlag and I ended up missing a 9 a.m. class I really wanted to go to.”
Rushing’s advice: If you get caught in a bad sleeping situation or are not getting along with your host, sleep somewhere else. He also urges baggers not to let their experience, whether positive or negative, completely influence their decision to attend Carnegie Mellon. “When I came back to campus for my interview, I ended up staying with a friend and had a really great time. That’s what convinced me to come to Carnegie Mellon, and that experience was completely separate from the Sleeping Bag Weekend program,” he said.
Sleeping bag agenda
When visiting Carnegie Mellon for the weekend, it’s good to have some sort of idea about what you want to discover and learn about the university. There are always many events happening on campus, so it’s good to go into your weekend with a plan.
For first-year H&SS student Edward Bai, Sleeping Bag Weekend was one big party. “My host was all about the fun,” said Bai. “We went running over to Baker Hall at one in the morning and rode down the incline hallway in spinny chairs. He even took me to his bhangra practice the next morning after classes.”
Some students choose to focus more on the intellectual side of the program. “Academic-wise, the experience was super informative,” said Veda Vadyar, a first-year in H&SS. “We got a tour, learned the history of [Carnegie Mellon], and met other people from our colleges. I went to a computer science class and an economics class, but there were actually a lot of other activities going on like lectures from professors and different things like that. It felt as if you were already in college.”
“For me it was all about experiencing dorm life,” said Jennifer Brown, a first-year in MCS. “I’m a counselor at an all-girls summer camp and I’ve been there for 13 years as a camper and a counselor, so I have lived with a lot of people. I got to see what life was like outside of the cabin. Surprisingly enough, I met people on bagger weekend whom I’m still friends with.”
Whatever your motive, Sleeping Bag Weekend is the perfect time to craft your understanding of our school.
What can baggers learn from the experiences of these first-years? Hernando Vidal, a first-year CIT student, recalled his weekend on campus and spoke about the importance of the formalities of Sleeping Bag Weekend. “When I first got to campus, I made sure that I immediately spoke with a bunch of undergraduate admissions officers, and I made sure they knew me by name. I signed up for my interview right away. I then went with my host back to his room and spent a lot of time meeting people on the floor and talking about majors. I was trying to get an actual student’s perspective on what life was like here.“
Many baggers get nervous or intimidated by the whole process. According to Vidal, this fear can be the most hindering side effect of the whole process. “When you do the Sleeping Bag Weekend, it’s really important that you take advantage of everything you can. You pay $50 to come visit the campus and you travel all this way; you don’t want to waste it by isolating yourself or by being afraid. You need to take advantage of all the resources on campus and all of the students you’ll be meeting — that’s the only way to get a true feel for the school,” he said.
For those arriving on campus and those hosting baggers, best of luck! This experience can be an innovative one, so take advantage of all that is being offered to you, but also remember to have a little fun.