SOAR: Student Orientation, Advisement and Orientation

FAQs for Missouri State Faculty and Staff

Collected below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about SOAR. If your question is not answered below, please contact the SOAR office. We’d love to chat with you.

Why is SOAR necessary for incoming freshman?

Dr. Denise Rode, in her chapter of the National Orientation Director’s Planning Manual (2004), notes that "orientation programs stand at the intersection of an institution’s recruitment efforts and its retention strategies." Orientation programs, like SOAR, help students in making a successful transition to university life by providing:

  • Information on campus support services and how to effectively utilize them
  • Information on expectations we have of students as new members of our academic community
  • Opportunities to enhance their social integration into the university community

Providing an experience that helps them feel a connection to their campus community has been shown to increase retention, especially during the critical first weeks on campus when many make the decision whether they will return for another semester or year. Programs like SOAR serve as an important institutional resource for retaining students and assisting them in developing into educated persons.

Who is required to attend?

First-time freshmen — incoming students with fewer than 24 transferrable credit hours earned AFTER their high school graduation — are required to attend SOAR. Students receive information about SOAR mailed directly from our office or included directly in their admission packet.

Who is NOT required to attend?

Transfer students — incoming students with 24 or more transferrable credit hours earned AFTER their high school graduation — are not required to attend SOAR. For questions regarding transfer students’ transition to Missouri State, please contact Dixie Williams, the office of admission’s transfer coordinator, at 6-4315 or the appropriate transfer advisor for the student’s intended major.

Non-traditional students — students age 22 or older, evening students, married students, and students with children — may register through and attend orientation programs offered by the adult student services. For further information, contact this office at 6-6929.

Do you have programs for parents and family members?

Yes! We believe it is important for us to prepare family members for their student’s and their own transition as they are a vital support system for our students. We offer family orientation programs that run concurrently with, but separately from, our student programs. During these sessions, we provide them with information about Missouri State and how they can appropriately support their student as they make the transition to becoming a responsible, independent adult.

What occurs during SOAR?

During SOAR, students have the opportunity to:

  • Learn about the differences between high school and university life
  • Receive academic advice and assistance from a faculty or professional advisor
  • Register for their first semester of classes
  • Participate in discussions about student life, academics, campus safety and living on- and off-campus
  • Obtain their BearPass Card, text books and parking permit
  • Take necessary placement exams
  • Meet current students, faculty, staff and administrators at Missouri State
  • Make new friends
  • Ask questions and receive answers about things they want to know

When is SOAR offered?

SOAR offers two types of programs: two-day programs and one-day programs.

When people think SOAR, they usually have our two-day programs in mind. Two sessions, attended by students admitted for the fall semester, are generally offered per week during the months of June and July: one session on Monday and Tuesday, and another on Wednesday and Thursday. University holidays sometimes alter this schedule. About 13 to 14 two-day sessions are offered each summer.

One-day programs are offered during the week prior to the beginning of the fall, spring and summer semesters. These programs are abbreviated versions of our two-day programs, allowing our students to learn information about Missouri State, meet other students, talk with their advisor, register for classes and conduct other necessary University business.

Because we require the assistance of many University offices during the operation of a session, we do not offer weekend sessions.

How many students attend SOAR?

Typically, about 180-200 students will attend each two-day session during the summer, and about 70-80 students will attend each one-day session throughout the year.

Will you run out of classes for students in later sessions?

We work closely with individual departments and the office of the provost to ensure that courses appropriate for first-time freshmen are plentiful enough to serve all of our incoming students. The selection of classes can become more limited as first day of classes for a particular semester approaches.

While some students are not able to register for all the courses they would like for their first semester, we work hard to ensure that a student’s first semester schedule helps them meet general education, major, minor and/or personal goals.

What kind of training is provided to the SOAR leaders?

SOAR leaders — current students who serve as guides through the orientation process — are a vital piece of the SOAR experience. SOAR leaders must meet a set of minimum criteria and are selected through a rigorous selection process known as SOAR Carousel. During Carousel, groups of candidates are rotated through four events and evaluated by their ability to answer questions from a mock student and parent panel, their ability to speak publicly in an impromptu setting, their interaction in a group setting and their performance in an interview with a faculty or staff member. After Carousel a pool of top-performing candidates is selected and interviewed by the SOAR staff, and a small number of candidates from this pool are offered positions as SOAR leaders.

SOAR leader training is also quite rigorous. Students selected as SOAR leaders must enroll in IDS 280 Student and Life Leadership; this course builds leadership and communication skills useful in their work for SOAR and in their life beyond Missouri State. This one credit course is offered for the entire spring semester. New and returning SOAR leaders also complete an intensive training week prior to the summer SOAR sessions to prepare them and update them on changes to the program or University since the previous summer.

SOAR leaders are some of our institution’s most highly-trained and dedicated student leaders, and these 40 students work hard to provide roughly 5,000 students and family members with an outstanding introduction to Missouri State University each year.

How can my office or department assist SOAR?

Departments or offices can assist us in making students and family members’ first Missouri State experience a memorable one in several ways:

  • Provide us information about your office or department.
    The SOAR leaders, advisors and I need as much information about Missouri State University as possible so that we can provide helpful and accurate information to our new students and their family members. While we do our best to keep up with changes and improvements across the University, the sheer amount can sometimes make that job difficult.  Let us know if you have information that affects incoming students or our ability to assist them.
  • Encourage talented faculty to assist with SOAR advising and presentations.
    The faculty and professional advisors that help students as they enter Missouri State serve several important functions.  First, they provide students with their first interaction with a faculty or staff member; a caring and attentive advisor will encourage students to develop relationships with other faculty members. Second, they serve as mentors to our SOAR leaders and provide them with a model of leadership. Third, they serve as representatives for MSU, its public affairs mission, and your college and department.
  • Advertise in the SOAR Handbook.
    The SOAR office produces a publication for incoming students called the SOAR Handbook. This resource provides lots of information students should know regarding their transition, the University and its services. Space to advertise your office, department or service is available in this publication, which is guaranteed to reach each SOAR student over the course of an academic year at a cost competitive with other advertising methods. Contact Joe Morris in the SOAR office for more information regarding this opportunity.
  • Provide SOAR participants with a branded give-away item.
    Departments often provide a promotional item to students and/or family members to inform them about opportunities or services. Recent examples include Fraternity and Sorority Life sponsoring name tag lanyards and the Bookstore providing t-shirts to students who reserve textbooks. Contact Joe Morris in the SOAR office for more information regarding this opportunity or ideas for give-away items.
  • Offer us suggestions for improvement.
    We are also open to receiving constructive feedback regarding the program. Send us your thoughts!