January SOAR Program (Spring 2021 Students)

SOAR stands for Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration and is coordinated by the Center for the First-Year Experience (CFYE). SOAR provides the opportunity to:

  • Gain exposure to the array of academic and social opportunities at UW–Madison.
  • Begin to integrate into university life and UW–Madison culture.
  • Think about what you would like your Wisconsin Experience to be.
  • Gain an understanding of university policies, procedures, and processes.

To protect the health and safety of you and our campus community, new undergraduate students (freshmen and transfer) enrolling in the Spring 2021 term will complete their orientation and course enrollment online in January. We are committed to providing you and your family a seamless transition to your start as a Badger and making sure your Wisconsin Experience starts off right!

More information about the January SOAR program for Spring 2021 admitted students will be posted later this semester. Students who have accepted their admission offer for Spring 2021 will be able to start exploring the SOAR reservation system starting in late November. During this time, you will be able to enter all your personal information for your SOAR reservation. Please note: To be able to access the SOAR reservation system, you must have been admitted and accepted your admission offer for Spring 2021. You will also receive an email when you are eligible to begin your SOAR reservation. You will be able to complete your reservation for the January SOAR session in early December December. In the meantime, review this page to learn more about the SOAR process!

Tasks before SOAR

Wondering what to do in the meantime? Before making your SOAR reservation later this Fall, there will be several tasks you must complete to prepare for your orientation. Please review these initial pre-SOAR tasks below to start preparing!

1) Complete Your Admissions Checklists

The Office of Admissions requires specific tasks for all incoming students after they are admitted. You will need to complete both your Admissions checklists as an Applicant and Admitted Student before making your SOAR reservation. Be sure to check your email(s) often for important information from the University, and keep track of the following information:

  • Your 10-digit UW-Madison Campus ID number
  • Your deadlines for enrollment confirmation, financial aid, final transcripts, and University Housing

2) Explore your Academic Options

During your SOAR reservation process, you will select the advising group that best matches your academic interests and goals. You will work with the advisors in your group to:

  • Learn more about the requirements for earning a UW-Madison degree.
  • Explore your academic options
  • Strategically choose courses based on your academic experiences and goals.
  • Enroll in your first semester classes.

Please review the two resources below to help you choose your SOAR advising group!

3) Understand your placement testing requirements

In order to participate in the SOAR program, students who are required to take a placement test(s) must complete their placement test(s) at least 2 weeks before their SOAR session. Placement test scores help academic advisors learn about your skills and help you choose courses at the correct level in each subject. Placement testing requirements vary between student types (freshman, transfer, and international).

More information about placement testing registration for Spring 2021 students will be posted in the coming months. In the meantime, click the button below to review our Placement Testing Information page to understand UW-Madison testing requirements.

Go to Placement Testing Information

A pencil is laying on top of a UW math course exam paper packet.

4) Technology and information security recommendations

The January SOAR program is being delivered in a fully online format. We want to ensure all of our students have the tools needed to complete the program. Below we have outlined the recommended hardware, software, and connectivity needed to get the most out of your SOAR experience, and would be additionally helpful during your time at UW-Madison. During SOAR, students will use multiple online tools to complete tasks, connect with each other, and learn about campus life and academics.

If you are experiencing issues with any of the applications, or need additional technology troubleshooting, please contact the DoIT Help Desk.

Hardware (Computer)

We recommend that students use either a desktop or laptop computer with a webcam and microphone to have the best experience with our technology. At minimum, students will need the following hardware to complete the SOAR program:

  • A tablet, laptop, or desktop computer for completing SOAR courses in Canvas
    • Completing SOAR courses on a smartphone is possible, but this is not recommended and will be a lower quality user experience.
    • We recommend using Windows 10 or/and High Sierra or later versions for Macs
  • As back-up phone (landline or cellphone) may be needed

Software & Applications

All applications used for SOAR provide web-based platforms that do not require you to install additional software. For your web browser, you should plan to use Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or Safari. Internet Explorer is not recommended.


A reliable, high-speed internet connection is important to being able to participate fully in online learning. We recommend an internet connection with: 

  • 15 megabit per second (Mb/s) or better download speed
  • 5 megabit per second (Mb/s) or better upload speed 
  • A ‘ping time’ of less than 75 milliseconds. 

Not sure what this means? Check your internet speed using a speed test and compare it against the recommended specification above. A wireless hotspot or tethering from a phone might not be sufficient. 

For help determining these specifications, contact the DoIT Help Desk’s Home Internet Connection Doctor Service.If you are concerned about your internet connection, please check out these tips for how to manage slower internet or low bandwidth.

Student completing coursework in Canvas

Technology Recommendations for the Academic Year

If you would like to learn more about what works best with our campus technology and what UW-Madison recommends for the academic year, visit the following sites from the Division of Information Technology (DoIT):

If you are in need to purchase technology, you can find a selection of available hardware on the UW Bookstore website and the DoIT student technology recommendations page

Protecting Your Information & Identity

When participating online, for SOAR or any other activity, it is important to take steps to protect your identity and information, as well as verify the individuals you are working with. We encourage you to review Scams to avoid: protecting your online identity from UW-Madison DoIT for more information.

For SOAR, please remember the following:

  • University staff will NEVER ask you for your password or MyUW login information.
  • All communication will come from a wisc.edu email address. If you receive email from an unknown individual you can look them up in the campus directory or contact the SOAR Program for assistance.
  • There is no cost to attend SOAR, and you will not be asked for any credit card or account information from SOAR staff. You will receive information from the Bursar’s Office about how to securely pay your tuition and fees bill.
  • A campus ID number or NetID username can often be used to help identify the correct student to a staff member. You will NEVER be asked for your Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) as a way to verify your identity.
  • Your interactions with University staff and students will always be scheduled. Do not accept impromptu or unsolicited meetings from unknown individuals.
Person with hand on laptop mousepad

Virtual Private Networks (VPN)

VPNs are helpful for students who are worried about the security or accessibility of their internet connection (i.e. public Wifi).  If you are in need of a VPN service to connect to a public connection, please download, install, and connect via the WiscVPN client (choose the operating system that matches your device for specific instructions). This will allow you to connect to the UW-Madison network from anywhere.

Interpreter provides caption-to-screen Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) service during a presentation.

Accommodations for persons with disabilities

SOAR is committed to creating a program where everyone can participate. When you register for SOAR, you must indicate any accommodations you may need to fully participate in the program. Please review our Accommodations information page for more information on the request processes for SOAR, placement testing, and the academic year (which are all separate).

For information regarding the accessibility and usability of the technologies used for SOAR online, visit SOAR online – Accessibility & usability information. If you would like speak with someone about your accommodations needs, you can contact the SOAR office at 608-262-4707 or soar@studentlife.wisc.edu.