As students headed back to campus after winter break, 45 first-year students joined the Hamilton community for the first time as members of the January admission program.

“Jans,” as they are referred to on College Hill, do not begin classes at Hamilton until the spring semester. They’re selected from the applicant pool for their “demonstrated independence and intellectual curiosity,” leading the admission team to believe they will have an enriching fall semester away from campus. From helping out with a family business to attending Arcadia University in London, what Jans choose to do with those few months before officially matriculating is entirely up to them. Here’s what a few of them did:

Brooke Hoffman ’26

New York City

When Brooke Hoffman ’26 received her admission to Hamilton as a Jan, she didn’t realize the impact studying abroad in London would have on her. “Initially, I viewed being a Jan as a way to attend the school I felt was the best fit for me,” Hoffman said. “However, after spending my first semester abroad in London, I am so grateful for my experiences. I gained so much perspective and developed tools that helped me immensely with my transition to college.”

While Hoffman recognizes that beginning college in an untraditional way might seem daunting, she encourages any future Jans to “take a leap of faith.” For one thing, Hoffman’s learned to embrace new experiences even when they appear frightening. “The new lifestyle my friends and I were thrown into, although it was scary at first, allowed me to become more independent and gain a stronger sense of self,” she said.

Sara White ’26

Washington, D.C.

Sara White ’26 also took part in the London program. In addition to her courseload, she picked up an internship at GreenWith Studio, a consulting company for fashion brands looking to become more environmentally conscious. “I found my internship through a friend of a friend and went into the office twice a week for about two months,” White said. “I helped redesign their website and create posts for their Instagram.”

Taking on the internship also gave White valuable networking experience. “My internship was a great way to meet people outside [Hamilton’s] program,” she noted. “The company shared a workspace with other environmentally conscious companies, so it was really cool to get to know all the companies and people.” 

Outside her internship, White took advantage of the opportunity to travel. “It felt like a mini gap year between starting college and ending high school,” she said. “I was able to travel a ton and see so much that I would not have been able to. Everyone in the program wanted to make the most of it and travel together.”

While everyone else was at college, I had the chance to slow down. It was the first time in my life where I was truly on my own page and independent of everyone else.

Chris Bannigan ’26 Winston-Salem, N.C. Chris Bannigan ’26

Chris Bannigan ’26

Winston-Salem, N.C.

While many Jans opt to attend the Arcadia Program, the Jan experience also allows students to spend a semester exploring something important to them. Chris Bannigan spent the semester coaching swimming in his home of Winston-Salem. “During my semester at home, I was a full-time swim coach for my club team. I coached various age groups ranging from 5- to 16-years old, all of which varied in swimming experience.” Bannigan also spent his fair share of time in the pool to prepare for his upcoming collegiate swim career at Hamilton. 

Yet what Bannigan enjoyed most about his fall semester was the independence that being a Jan gave him. “My favorite part of my semester off was that I had my own schedule,” he said. “While everyone else was at college, I had the chance to slow down. It was the first time in my life where I was truly on my own page and independent of everyone else.” For Bannigan, this extra time was well spent reflecting. “I matured in a lot of respects and got to know myself on a deeper level that would not have happened if I started college in the fall.”  

Evelyn Burdsall ’26

Shaker Heights, Ohio

Evelyn Burdsall studied marine biology at the School for Field Studies (SFS) in the Turks and Caicos Islands during the fall semester. She enjoyed being able to focus on her interest in marine biology while also knowing she could explore other disciplines once she got to campus. “I have always loved the ocean and marine biology, so SFS gave me the opportunity to study marine biology without being committed to that topic for the rest of my college career,” she said. 

Burdsall got hands-on experience in a major research lab by collecting ocean samples, analyzing them, and then filing scientific reports. The program also included several snorkeling trips around the islands. “My favorite [snorkel] trip was a night-time snorkel,” where she said her group saw a sea turtle, two sharks, and three different octopi.

Although spending her first semester of college on an island was in some ways difficult, Burdsall appreciated the opportunity to explore new places before coming to campus. “I was supposed to travel abroad during my sophomore year of high school but couldn’t due to COVID. I became a Jan so I could travel before starting classes at Hamilton,” she noted. Ultimately, the risk was worth it. “Going to Turks and Caicos was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I got the experience of a lifetime,” Burdsall said.

I became a Jan so I could travel before starting classes at Hamilton ... I got the experience of a lifetime.

Evelyn Burdsall ’26 Shaker Heights, Ohio Evelyn Burdsall ’26

Parv Choudhary ’26

Bangkok, Thailand

Parv Choudhary ’26 opted to stay in his home in Thailand in order to spend time with his family before studying in a foreign country. “My Jan experience was very valuable to me because normally, I would not get that much time to spend with my family as I went to a boarding school through middle school and high school,” Choudhary said. “I helped out at my dad’s diamond and gemstone company managing some of the accounts as well as making up for the traveling COVID had not allowed me to do,” he added. 

Despite his initial concerns about feeling disconnected from campus life, Choudhary came to appreciate the strong support network Hamilton provides for Jans, who return a few days earlier than their peers to receive their own orientation. “At first, I was doubtful about [my January admission], but Hamilton does not let the Jans feel like they do not belong,” he said. “With the constant flow of emails Hamilton sent, I always knew what was going on around campus. Not only that, but the orientation leaders during [Jan orientation] were so sweet and answered my questions regarding courses and campus locations.”

January Admission

Hamilton College offers a January admission option to several dozen students each year. “Jans” are admitted because of their academic potential and strong personal qualities, as well as a demonstrated independence and intellectual curiosity.

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A new student laughs during trivia night at January orientation.

Jans Join the Hamily

On Jan. 14, 45 new members of the Class of 2026 officially joined the Hamily. Orientation leaders provided a warm welcome to the January admits as they checked in, moved into their residence hall homes, and got right to it with orientation group meetings, a welcome luncheon with President David Wippman, Dean of Faculty Ngoni Munemo, Vice President for Enrollment Management Monica Inzer, and Dean of Students Chris Card. They signed the College register at matriculation in Buttrick Hall and learned about Hamilton’s Honor Code.

A collage representing the interests of first-semester students.

First-Years’ First Thoughts on Hamilton

Get to know a few members of the class and the courses they loved, their favorite campus meals (it’s a breakfast bunch!), and how they spent their first months on College Hill.

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