University of Wisconsin–Madison

SOAR Program Overview

New Student Leader (NSL) talks with incoming freshmen in a small-group discussion
A New Student Leader (NSL) talks with incoming freshmen and facilitates a small-group discussion about the challenges new students may face as they transition to campus life.

SOAR stands for Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration. At SOAR, you will begin your transition to UW–Madison by learning about about academic advising, degree requirements, and campus resources. You will also enroll in your fall-semester courses. The SOAR Program offers 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.

SOAR is just one component of your transition to UW–Madison. The Center for the First-Year Experience offers many opportunities throughout your first year.

General Program Schedules

The SOAR Program is a two day program. During SOAR, you will work with academic advisors to develop your academic plan. As part of SOAR, you will review degree and major requirements and  enroll in your first-semester courses. You will also have an opportunity to learn about campus resources, participate in a campus walking tour, meet with current students, and discuss the transition to UW-Madison.

The following is a sample SOAR schedule for freshmen students. A detailed SOAR schedule is provided at check-in. You must attend all parts of the program in order to enroll in your first semester courses.

UW Placement Testing (Completed before SOAR)

Day One

  • SOAR Program Check-in
    • You will check in at Memorial Union, 800 Langdon Street between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Day One of your SOAR session. At check-in, you will receive a detailed SOAR schedule and program materials.
  • SOAR Program
    The program will begin at 12:45 p.m. and includes a program welcome, dinner, and evening program. You will also meet with your academic advisors to begin academic planning, while parents and guests will have separate informational programming throughout the day. The day will conclude around 9:30 p.m.

Day Two

  • Students: Advising, Academic Planning, and Course Enrollment 
    The program will begin at 8:30 a.m. and you will continue your academic planning and enroll in your fall semester courses. The program will conclude around 12:30 p.m.
  • Parents/Guests: Informational Sessions
    The program will begin at 8:45 a.m. and parents/guests will learn about college resources and campus departments. Information will be provided about housing, financial aid, campus safety, computing resources, and much more. The program will conclude around 12:30 p.m.
  • Mandatory ISS Orientation Session
    Mandatory check-in with ISS and orientation sessions are required for new international students. Your required ISS orientation session will take place shortly before or after your SOAR session, from 1:00 p.m. -3:00 p.m. In the ISS Orientation sessions, UW–Madison staff members offer presentations that address issues such as health services and insurance, F-1 and J-1 immigrations rules, adapting to a new academic system, and UW–Madison policies and services. For detailed information about ISS check-in and to sign up for ISS welcome events, visit iss.wisc.edu/students/orientation/fallorientation.
  • Optional: Campus Tour
    Following course registration and parent/guest sessions, both students and guests have the opportunity to participate in an optional campus walking tour provided by Campus and Visitor Relations staff. The tour is from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The SOAR Program is a day-long program. During SOAR, you will work with academic advisors to develop your academic plan. As part of SOAR, you will review degree and major requirements and transfer credit evaluations and enroll in your first-semester courses. You will also have an opportunity to learn about campus resources, participate in a campus walking tour, meet with current students, and discuss the transition to UW-Madison.

The following is a sample SOAR schedule for transfer students. A detailed SOAR schedule is provided at check-in. You must attend all parts of the program in order to enroll in your first semester courses.

UW Placement Testing (Completed before SOAR)

  • In order to participate in the SOAR Program, students who are required to take placement test(s) will need to have completed their placement tests prior to attending. You should have received an e-mail from Admissions detailing which test(s) you are required to take; please refer to this e-mail for specific information. If you were told to take a test that you already took through the UW System placement testing program, please report missing placement test scores here.To learn more about placement testing, please visit the Testing and Evaluation website. You can also refer back to the main SOAR checklist for helpful placement testing links.

SOAR Program Check-in

  • To begin your day, check in at Memorial Union (800 Langdon St.) between 7:30 a.m and 8:30 a.m. on the day of your SOAR session. At check-in, you will receive a detailed SOAR schedule and program materials. The program will begin promptly at 8:45 a.m.

Advising, Academic Planning, and Course Enrollment

  • During SOAR, you will work with academic advisors to develop your academic plan and enroll in your fall-semester courses. Lunch is included.

Transfer Specific Programming

  • You will begin enrolling in courses following lunch. Once enrolled, the program continues with small-group sessions lead by New Student Leaders. These sessions are designed to help you learn about campus resources and connect with other transfer students. The SOAR program will conclude with a message from the Dean of Students.
  • Once you are finished with the program, it is highly recommended that you return to Union South to pick up your Wiscard (student ID).

Mandatory International Student Services (ISS) Orientation

  • Mandatory check-in with ISS and orientation sessions are required for new international students. Please review the email you received for more information about when your required ISS orientation session will take place. In the ISS Orientation sessions, UW–Madison staff members offer presentations that address issues such as health services and insurance, F-1 and J-1 immigration rules, adapting to a new academic system, and UW–Madison policies and services. For detailed information about ISS check-in and to sign up for ISS welcome events, visit iss.wisc.edu/students/orientation/fallorientation.

Most international students will attend SOAR during the weeks leading up to the start of the semester. International students already studying in the United States are eligible to attend SOAR throughout the summer. International students follow the same SOAR schedule as domestic students–either a one-day transfer SOAR, or a two-day freshman SOAR schedule. In addition to the SOAR program, all international students are required to complete mandatory International Student Services check-in and Orientation. More information about ISS at iss.wisc.edu/students/orientation. For convenience, a ISS Orientation will be associated with each SOAR session.

For students arriving to campus before residence hall move-in, transitional housing is available at a per-day cost. Students interested in staying in transitional housing must have a University Housing contract for fall and be arriving after August 15. For more information about transitional housing, visit the Transitional Housing information page.

The Center for the First-Year Experience (CFYE) is committed to providing parents and family members with the necessary tools and support to help facilitate a successful transition for their student. For this reason, we offer a concurrent Parent/Guest Program with each SOAR session.

We recognize that parents play a central role in a student’s life and that you will continue to be a source of guidance and support during your student’s college years. Nevertheless, we encourage you to look at your interactions with your student in a different way. You will move from being the primary caregiver and decision-maker to being more of a mentor or coach. We acknowledge that for many parents this is a significant change, and CFYE will help you find the resources to navigate this transition. Below are some recommendations we have for parents.

  • Be familiar with the SOAR Program and steps involved in summer orientation. On this site, freshmen and transfer students both have separate tabs, which outline the SOAR program.
  • Students are expected to make their own SOAR reservation. You should support your student in the reservation process by discussing overnight accommodations and travel arrangements. We understand that it can be difficult for students to arrange all the details of traveling to UW–Madison alone, but we encourage you to work together on the planning process.
  • Be open-minded. The cornerstone of a research university is its liberal education program. We strive to prepare students to be critical thinkers, which involves exposing them to many different subject areas. Whether your student has chosen a major or is still exploring their options, we have academic advisors to help in this process. We expect you to help your student prepare for their SOAR experience by discussing interests, skills, and future goals.

More information to come for Spring 2018!

The SOAR program strives to ensure all participants can fully participate in the program, for information about accommodations for student or parents/guest click here.

Office staff answering phones
Orientation Assistants are here to answer all of your questions. Our office is staffed six days a week, and you can reach us by phone or email.

Choosing a SOAR Date & Making Your SOAR Reservation

Because of space limitations and school/college availability, we cannot guarantee a specific date in advance of your SOAR reservation. Do NOT make any travel arrangements until you have completed your SOAR reservation. After you select your advising group, you will be presented with a list of available SOAR dates. You should select a date that works best with your schedule.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I make and edit my SOAR Reservation?

    In April–and continuing throughout the spring–students who have paid their enrollment deposit will be able to make a SOAR reservation. SOAR reservations are made through the register.soar.wisc.edu link. During the reservation process, you will have the opportunity to select a session that fits your schedule. SOAR sessions take place on weekdays from mid-June through the start of classes. Sessions are also offered the week before classes start in January for spring admits.

    USING THE ONLINE SYSTEM

    SOAR reservations will be accepted any time after noon (CDT) on April 10 for transfer students and after 5 p.m. (CDT) on April 24 for freshmen. Please remember you are only authorized to make a SOAR reservation after your enrollment deposit has been processed by the Office of Admissions and Recruitment. You will also need to schedule (but not necessarily complete) your placement test before making your SOAR reservation. Once you are eligible to make a SOAR reservation, a reminder email will be sent to the address provided on your application for admission. Reminder/eligibility emails will start being sent in early April.

    SOAR housing accommodations are not automatically included with SOAR experience. Reference the “Make Your Overnight Reservation” step on the SOAR Checklist.

    MANAGING YOUR RESERVATION

    To make changes or review your SOAR reservation, log into the SOAR reservation system. Changes to your SOAR reservation must be made at least one week prior to your SOAR date; cancellations made less than a week before your SOAR date cannot be refunded.

  • Will choosing a later SOAR date affect my ability to enroll in the courses I need?

    You will leave SOAR with a full schedule of classes that fulfill undergraduate degree requirements. University administration officials monitor course enrollments throughout the summer to ensure a maximum number of options for all attendees, regardless of when you attend SOAR.

  • Why can't I make my SOAR reservation yet?

    There could be a variety of reasons you are not able to make your SOAR reservation at a given time. One of the most common reasons is that you have not yet paid your enrollment deposit to the Office of Admissions. Paying your enrollment deposit is the way you confirm your intention to attend UW-Madison.  It will also make you eligible to reserve a spot at a SOAR session when our reservation system opens. Please refer to the information below based on your student type:

    Freshmen: The UW–Madison deadline for freshmen to submit an enrollment deposit and confirm a space in the incoming class is May 1, 2017. To honor this deposit deadline for all freshmen, some seats in each SOAR session will be held in reserve. These seats will be released on May 2, 2017 and will then be available on a first-come, first-served basis. SOAR seats can only be accessed through the SOAR reservation system.

    Transfer Students: Please refer to the transfer student admitted student checklist for information on the deadline for transfer students to submit an enrollment deposit. All seats in each transfer SOAR session are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

  • What if I am not able to attend a summer SOAR session?

    Due to summer-long commitments or financial constraints, some students are unable to attend SOAR during our summer program. For these students, we offer an end-of-summer SOAR Program. This program takes place after the residence halls are open for move in. If you need to attend SOAR at the end of summer due to other commitments, please fill out this survey. Completing the survey will help the SOAR office determine if this session best fits your needs, and, if approved, to authorize you to register for the session.

UW students and their families take part in a Parents' Weekend festival at Union South at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Sept. 19, 2014. The event offered food and ice-cream and entertainment from several UW student groups. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

Paying for SOAR

The SOAR Program cost for students is covered in your New Student Fee which is paid in your first semester tuition bill.

SOAR Program Fees

The SOAR Program charges fees for the following optional choices. Your SOAR fees will be billed approximately two weeks prior to your attendance at SOAR. You will receive an email from soar@studentlife.wisc.edu with payment instructions. No payment is made at the time you make your reservation. You will see your finalized invoice by logging into the reservation system two weeks before your SOAR session. You will then be able to make your payment online through a secure site; for security, the SOAR office is not able to take payments over the phone.

In order to speed up your check-in process at SOAR, we highly recommend making your payment online before your session. Failure to pay before attending will significantly slow down your check-in process.

Optional SOAR Program fees include:

SOAR Parent and Guest Program:

  • $50 per parent/guest during two-day freshman SOAR sessions
  • $25 per parent/guest during one-day transfer SOAR sessions

Parking at SOAR:

  • Summer SOAR guests with reserved parking: If you plan to drive to campus, you should have indicated a need for a parking space during the SOAR reservation process. If you requested parking, enclosed in your confirmation packet will be your gate code and parking instructions.
  • Summer SOAR guests without reserved parking: If you did not reserve a parking space and anticipate needing to park on campus, a list of available lots with real-time vacant stall counts can be found on the Transportation Services website. Parking costs $12 a day; you can pull a ticket when you enter the lot and pay when you leave.
  • January SOAR guests: The SOAR program does not offer parking for January or late-August SOAR sessions. If you need to park on campus during the program, we recommend parking in the Engineering Drive Ramp (Lot 17), located at 1525 Engineering Drive, or the Union South lot at 1308 W. Dayton Street. For either lot, you will need to pull a ticket when you enter the lot and pay upon exit. The maximum fee you will be charged is $12 per day. To view available parking locations and availability in real time, view the Transportation Services website.

Paying SOAR Fees

You will receive an invoice via e-mail two weeks before your SOAR session. At that time, you will be able to log into the SOAR Reservation System to pay your SOAR fees. No fees are collected at the time you make your reservation. In order to speed up your SOAR check-in process, we highly recommend paying fees before arriving. Failure to pay fees ahead of attending the program can significantly slow down your check-in process.

Refund Policy/Cancellation Policy

Because resources are committed in advance of your SOAR attendance, edits to your SOAR reservation must be made at least one week prior to attending the program. Your SOAR à la carte fees are refundable up to one week prior to attending SOAR. One week prior to attending SOAR, your New Student Fee and your SOAR reservation are invoiced. Changes may only be made by calling the Center for the First-Year Experience at 608-262-4707. No refunds will be granted for changes made within one week of your SOAR session, except in extraordinary cases. All refunds must be requested in writing to:

ATTN: SOAR Refund Request
Center for the First-Year Experience
1155 Observatory Drive, Suite 101
Madison, WI 53706

Email: soar@studentlife.wisc.edu

Financial assistance for SOAR Program fees

The university has limited funds available to assist students in paying the cost associated with SOAR. To be considered for this assistance, students must be from long-term poverty or near-poverty level family backgrounds and must have submitted the FASFA and other financial aid forms to the UW–Madison Office of Student Financial Services. Students who meet these criteria may request consideration for the assistance via the SOAR online reservation process.

SOAR Mailings

To keep costs of the program low, we only print enough materials to mail one per student. If you need additional copies–or have lost your materials–those will be uploaded here later in the spring semester.