The sun is barely above the horizon on move-in day as Terri Cox waits outside of the Honors Residence Hall, watching over a pile of rugs, brightly colored bags and tall teal drawers. Her daughter, Tessa, is just about to start freshman year at USC as a Palmetto Fellow.
But this isn’t Terri’s first move-in at the University of South Carolina — Tessa is her third child, and she’s following her two older brothers to USC.
“I feel like they’re building a family legacy,” Terri said.
It’s an emotional experience to have her last child leaving home, but she feels more secure having them all in the same place.
“I was probably going to come here anyway," Tessa said. "I love the entire city."
All across campus, students are rushing to beat the heat and settle into where they’ll call home for the next year. Some have only been to campus for orientation, while others, like Tessa, have visited USC for years.
Starting college comes with a wide range of emotions: excitement for classes to start, fear of the unknown, anticipation of the upcoming football season — not to mention dealing with parents reluctant to say goodbye.
“The enormity of it is the most daunting,” Bethany Miller said. Her son, Wesley, had a graduating class of 56 at his small private school in Summerville.
Moving in was a “big culture shock” for Wesley. “I wish I was here a few days earlier,” he said.
The incoming class of 2021 is about 5,800 strong, a historic high for the university. With about 40 percent of the class coming from outside South Carolina, many combined the move-in trip with an opportunity to watch the solar eclipse.
Sofia Bernardo’s family traveled from Cleveland, Ohio, where the eclipse only reached about 80 percent coverage. The early arrival also meant an early move-in time to Bernardo’s room in Capstone.
“I’m excited to see her room,” Sofia’s mom said as her daughter waited in line to check in.
At the check in desk and all around the area are staff with name tags, eager to assist. Move-in day is a huge event for university staff and volunteers, from crossing guards and resident mentors to upperclassmen helping to carry furniture.
Brianna Eberl, a fourth-year exercise science student, said she’d helped about 50 new residents in just the first 30 minutes of her five-hour shift near Maxcy College. She volunteered to help with freshman move-in so she could move in early to her room on the Horseshoe, she said.
According to Peggy Binette, a full of half of USC students were moved in by 9 a.m. But at that point, the day was barely getting started for staff, many of whom spend the whole day outside from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. answering questions, pushing carts and trying to stay cool. In addition to the student volunteers, about 300 university staff are involved.
“I’m so happy it’s not scorching,” said Patricia Davis, USC's coordinator of special student populations and bedrooms. The high Tuesday was just 91 degrees with spotty cloud cover, compared to a 96-degree move-in day last fall.
Getting an even earlier start than Davis was the University of South Carolina Police Department, which started to set up traffic patterns around 5 a.m. Major T.J. Geary said that the eclipse on Monday worked as a practice for the huge move-in crowds, although there were less problems with the overlap than he’d expected.
Over 40 officers were around campus during move-in, directing traffic and patrolling on bikes to help parents feel secure leaving their children.
Most students and their families experience some mixed emotions, especially parents who are excited for their children but sad to see them go.
It’s "awful and great at the same time,” Bethany Miller said of her son, Wesley. “I want him to not want to come home.”