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SOAR program eases tensions, transitions for freshmen

August 22nd, 2010 Posted in Arts and Life

By Michael Doxey

New students coming to Utah State University are greeted by the A Team as part of the SOAR—Student Orientation Advising and Registration—program, designed to smooth the transition to becoming a new Aggie.

SOAR coordinator Lisa Hancock says that incoming students and parents come to the university and meet with current students to get information about how to buy books, obtain parking passes, and learn about campus life and resources. The newcomers also meet with academic advisors to prepare for their first semester at college.

Summer is SOAR’s busiest season, with 14 sessions connecting with 3,000 incoming students. About two-thirds of them are from Utah, with the rest from around the country. Some students take an online SOAR course if they are unable to travel to Logan.

“We usually get really good feedback from the students, and particularly from the parents who come to the presentation,” Hancock said. “We try to give really relevant information to both groups to kind of help the students interact with incoming freshman that are in their cohort and [to allow] current students to talk about that transition.”

Transfer students are not required to attend SOAR, Hancock said, which can place them at a disadvantage. “Sometimes we hear the transfer students had to find certain things out on their own, and some of them say ‘I didn’t know that we had a Health and Wellness Center here,’” she said.

Hancock said that the most rewarding part about working in SOAR is sharing new freshmen’s excitement and enthusiasm as they become Aggies. Sometimes new students or their parents will arrive nervous, angry, or frustrated, Hancock said, and being able to help resolve their concerns and have them leave happy, knowing that they have an advocate to help on campus, is gratifying.

Morgan Winchester came from Brigham City this summer for SOAR. “It’s been fabulous,” she said. “Everyone has been so helpful.”

Kaili Snow, a student coordinator for the program, said that’s the best part of the job—to help new students get acclimated. “I really enjoy working with the students and helping them register and set up a schedule,” she said. “It’s rewarding for me because you can see a wash of relief come over their faces” when they arrive nervous and leave the program with an understanding of what to expect.

Holly Green of Pleasant Grove, Utah, agreed. “I just really like meeting with my advisor and getting that one-on-one talk with him…meeting with him and talking about my major and what I’m actually going into,” she said. “When the A Team sat down with us and answered our questions and talked to us, it was very stress-relieving to know that they went through the same things that we are going through right now.”

The SOAR program held its last summer session Aug. 5, but advising is available year-round for new and transferring students. For more information about getting settled at USU, visit http://www.usu.edu/futurestudents/ or http://www.usu.edu/soar/. Or check out videos about USU at http://www.usu.edu/multimedia/.


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