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 academic advising, degree requirements, and campus resources. You will also enroll in your first-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 January 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 (if relevant) and enroll in your spring-semester courses. You will also have an opportunity to meet current and incoming 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.

Once you are finished with the program, it is highly recommended that you go to Union South (1308 W Dayton Street) to pick up your Wiscard, your official UW-Madison student ID card. The Wiscard Office is located on the first floor of Union South in room 149 and is open 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday-Friday.

UW Placement Testing (Completed before SOAR)

  • In order to participate in the SOAR Program, students who are required to take a 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, 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.) Annex Room between 8:30 a.m and 9:30 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 9:30 a.m. in the Memorial Union Great Hall on the fourth floor. Before the program begins, a continental breakfast will be served and various campus offices will be present at tables to answer your questions on the fourth floor.

Advising, Academic Planning, and Course Enrollment

  • During SOAR, you will work with academic advisors to develop your academic plan and enroll in your spring-semester courses. Lunch will be included in the Memorial Union Great Hall. You will begin enrolling in courses following lunch.

The SOAR freshman 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.

.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

  • Summer SOAR Program Check-in: At check-in, you will receive a detailed SOAR schedule and program materials.
    • If you are staying in University Housing for SOAR, you will check in at the residence hall in which you are staying. Residence Hall check-in will be available from 10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Please make sure to plan for at least 15 minutes of travel time between your housing check-in and the start of the SOAR program in the Union.
      • Guests attending SOAR sessions from June 10 to July 12 will stay in Smith Hall. Guests attending SOAR from July 22 to August 15 will stay in Sellery Hall. 
      • Note: housing is not automatically included in your SOAR reservation process. If you would like to stay in University Housing, please visit https://www.housing.wisc.edu/conferences/soar/reservation/ to make your reservation. You will need to make your SOAR date reservation before registering with Housing.
    • If you are not staying in University Housing for SOAR, you will check in at Union South, 1308 W. Dayton Street, between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Day One of your SOAR session.
    • Late-August SOAR Program Check-in: At check-in, you will receive a detailed SOAR schedule and program materials.

      • Check in for all SOAR sessions between August 22-30 will take place in Union South, Alumni Room (1308 W. Dayton St.)
      • Overnight accommodations in University housing are not offered for late-August SOAR sessions; check your University Housing contract for move-in dates.
  • SOAR Program
    Two-Day SOAR programs will begin at 1:00 p.m. These programs include 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.
  • Parents/Guests: Informational Sessions
    The program will begin shortly following the welcome session. Parents/guests will learn about college resources and campus departments. Information will be provided about advising, the Wiscard, paying tuition, financial aid, campus safety, family transitions, and on- and off-campus housing. The program will conclude around 9:00 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 12:00 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 internships, service opportunities, recreational sports, careers and internships, computing resources, and much more. The program will conclude around 12:00 p.m.
  • Mandatory ISO for International Students
    International students are required to attend International Student Orientation (ISO) in addition to attending the SOAR program. ISO includes several components; please read the “International Students” tab on this website for additional information.
  • 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 SOAR confirmation (with brief schedule) for Freshmen can be found here.

The SOAR Program is a day-long program. During SOAR, you will work with academic advisors to create your SOAR schedule for the fall semester. 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 a 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 & Schedule

  • Check-in: To begin your day, check in at Union South, Alumni Room 224 between 8:00 a.m and 9:15 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 9:15 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 Social: You will begin enrolling in courses following lunch. Once enrolled, the program continues with a transfer student social in the Transfer Engagement Center (located in the Middleton Building).
  • Campus Tour: An one-hour optional campus tour is available beginning at 3:30 p.m. Tours depart from the Campus and Visitor Relations desk at Union South.
  • Get Your Wiscard: Once you are finished with the program, it is highly recommended that you return to Union South to pick up your Wiscard (student ID).

The SOAR confirmation (with brief schedule) for transfer students can be found here.

 

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.

  • Students are expected to make their own SOAR reservation. You should support your student in the reservation process by discussing 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 in 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.
  • There is a SOAR program specifically designed to help parents/guests learn more about campus resources and supports for their students. These sessions include topics ranging from campus safety to understanding academic advising to on- and off-campus housing information and managing finances.

SOAR Definitions and Registration

For the SOAR program, international students are defined as degree-seeking students holding an F-1 or J-1 visa. Additionally, SOAR defines freshmen as students whose last school attended was high school, and transfer students as students whose last school attended was another college or university.

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 schedule or a two-day freshman SOAR schedule. In addition to the SOAR program, all international students are required to complete mandatory ISO.

Mandatory ISO

In addition to the SOAR program, international students are required to attend International Student Orientation (ISO). Orientation components for international students include:

  • Check-in with International Student Services (ISS) for document scanning
  • An ISS informational session (ISO). Your ISO session is connected with your SOAR session; check your email a week before your SOAR session for specific times and locations. 
  • ISS Welcome Events (optional)

Additional information about ISO and other ISS welcome events can be found on the ISS website: iss.wisc.edu/home/orientation/

Transitional Housing

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. For more information about transitional housing, visit the Transitional Housing information page.

The SOAR program strives to ensure all participants can fully participate in the program.  For information about disability-related accommodations, please 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

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Where should I park at SOAR?

January SOAR guests: The SOAR program does not offer parking for January sessions. If you need to park on campus during the program, we recommend parking in the following public parking lots near Memorial Union:

    • Helen C. White parking garage (Lot 6), located at 600 N. Park St.
    • Fluno Center Garage (Lot 83) located at 314 N. Frances St.
    • Lake & Johnson garage (Lot 46) located at 301 N. Lake St.
    • Grainger Hall (Lot 7) located at 325 N. Brooks St.
    • You will need to pull a ticket when you enter the lot and pay upon exit. The maximum fee you will be charged is $15 per day. To view available parking locations and availability in real time, view the Visitor Parking Availability website or map.wisc.edu.

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 $15 a day; you can pull a ticket when you enter the lot and pay when you leave.

How do I make and edit my 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. Summer SOAR sessions take place on weekdays from mid-June through late-August. Availability of specific SOAR dates depends on a variety of factors; accessing the live reservation system is the only way to determine what dates are available for you.

USING THE ONLINE SYSTEM

January SOAR reservations can be made online starting December 2, 2019. 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. SOAR housing accommodations are not included with the January SOAR program. Reference the “Reserve your Overnight Lodging” step on the SOAR Checklist if you need hotel recommendations.

You will also need to schedule (but not necessarily complete) your placement test(s) 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.

For summer 2020 sessions, reminder/eligibility emails will start being sent in March.

 

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 to ensure a maximum number of options for all attendees.

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 review step 1, “Complete Your Admissions Steps” on the SOAR checklist in order to ensure you reserve your spot in the freshman or transfer class.

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

If you are unable to attend a January SOAR session due to extenuating circumstances or financial constraints, please contact the SOAR Program Office at soar@studentlife.wisc.edu or 608-262-4707.

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 and January SOAR sessions

Refund and 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:

Email: soar@studentlife.wisc.edu

Financial Assistance

The university has limited funds available to assist students in paying the cost associated with SOAR.

To qualify for assistance in paying a portion of your SOAR fees, the Office of Student Financial Aid must have received your FAFSA information and all requested documentation and you must meet one of the following:

  1. You are eligible to receive a federal Pell grant,
  2. You are eligible for Bucky’s Tuition Promise, or
  3. You are a participant in the FASTrack or BANNER program

Check your financial aid status in the Student Center on My UW (https://my.wisc.edu/). Students who meet these criteria may request consideration for the assistance via the SOAR online reservation process.