Big/Little Program

What is the Big/Little program?

The Big/Little program is one of Mount Holyoke’s oldest traditions, tracing its origins back to the early 1900s. At its heart, the program is a really simple recipe for friendship: a junior (the “Big”) is paired up with an incoming first-year student (the “Little”). Big + Little = friends.

Junior "bigs" and first-year "littles" in 2016
Junior "bigs" and first-year "littles" in 2016

Why does such a recipe continue to resonate with today’s students, despite their seemingly limitless access to the support of family and friends? In addition to the many resources available on campus to help first years transition successfully to College life, having an older, more experienced student as a sibling can simply be really helpful. Bigs have the power to ease homesickness, inspire new adventures and more. Plus, it’s just plain fun!

Here’s how the Big/Little program works

The junior class board has the pleasure of assigning each Big to a Little and of creating programs to nurture the siblings’ relationships. In recent years students have been paired up based on their residencs halls in order to make meeting up a bit easier. Assignments are often made over the summer, with help from the Office of Residential Life.

After email introductions, the pairs meet in person and start to get to know each other. Some meet for a meal or coffee. Some catch a movie or wander around the Village Commons or campus. Others hang out in the common areas of the residence halls. 

Bigs and Littles, circa 1984
Bigs and Littles, circa 1984

“Comfortable in my new community” 

The Big/Little tradition can set the stage for a true and welcome friendship. Bigs can shares their personal experiences and insight. Littles have the opportunity to ask questions, raise concerns and just feel more welcome and connected to Mount Holyoke. Many pairs become friends throughout their time at MHC — and even after graduation and beyond. 

“My Big has been an indescribably key part of my Mount Holyoke experience,” said Amelia Benich, a first-year student. “She answers questions for me regardless of the complexity of the topic, which makes me feel a lot more comfortable in my new community.”

A Big/Little painting activity in 2018
A Big/Little painting activity in 2018

Big successes

The junior class board will often host the first Big/Little event of the year on a sunny Saturday afternoon in September. A recent class board invited the Big/Little pairs to arrive together and complete a scavenger hunt as a duo. Other events have involved siblings making friendship bracelets for one another and writing letters to each other that will remain sealed until Commencement for the "little" class, when the siblings open them to recall their first adventure together.

Students hope this tradition will continue for centuries to come, encouraging a stronger sense of community and contributing to the unique Mount Holyoke experience. Our traditions help make Mount Holyoke what it is: a community where friendship and siblinghood are a natural part of the experience.