Updated SOAR Program Now Open to Second-Years

On Nov. 22, registration opened for the Sophomore Opportunities and Academic Resources Program. The program, which has taken place since 2019, is open to students who have completed exactly two semesters at the time of registration.

“The program has always sought to equip students with the skills they need to make the most of their remaining time at Oberlin and begin planning for beyond,” Manager of Academic Peer Advising Carter Cooper wrote in an email to the Review. “Sophomore
year is a real turning point for students in terms of solidifying academic interests and starting to think concretely about post-graduation plans. We are proud to be designing an 11-week program that helps all sophomores with these important decisions.”

The latest edition of the program features some changes previous years.

“While the ultimate goals of the program remain the same, it will be more participatory in a way we believe will be welcomed and embraced by second-year students,” Cooper wrote. “Oberlin’s new approach maintains this foundational aspect of SOAR, but fleshes it out by expanding opportunities for student reflection. For example, students will continue to benefit from expert-guided lectures, workshops, and sessions with their peer mentors. Additionally, students will be the drivers of a curriculum that prioritizes their self-reflection, communication, critical thinking, and analysis through activities such as review and discussion of
selected readings and collaboration with the Center for the Engaged Liberal Arts directors.”

SOAR will feature two kinds of events: core sessions and skill-building workshops.

“Core sessions will cover broad themes and prompt reflection and analysis through questions such as ‘How do I find my thing?’ ‘How do I negotiate my place in the world?’ ‘How do I present myself to others across spaces?’” Cooper wrote. “Skill-building workshops will complement these sessions by helping students to develop hard skills. Through this two-part approach, students will engage in guided introspection and fill their toolkit with the resources they need, such as an adaptable résumé and a five-semester academic and co-curricular plan, to take the next steps toward their goals.”

College third-year Amon DeVane, who took part in the program last year, spoke highly of the experience.

“I definitely recommend [the program to] second-years who feel like they have an hour on Saturdays or Sundays or whenever,” DeVane said. “It’s a worthwhile thing to do to get out of the pockets that we sometimes find as Oberlin students.”

However, Devane also noted a lack of transparency from SOAR about the requirements for passing the course.

“One thing that absolutely needs to change is clarity on grading, because it’s not fun to wonder if you’re going to fail something,” DeVane said. “I’m on the Ultimate Frisbee team. And so we had a few tournaments that we went to, and I missed … two classes or something. I was all worried about like, ‘Am I going to pass?’ I emailed four or five different people, and none of them could give me an answer, [but] I passed in the end.”

The SOAR Program has been reworked and changed four times since its initial debut, striving toward adapting to student needs.

“We have always included rigorous assessment as part of SOAR,” Cooper wrote. “This feedback has helped us amplify certain elements of the program, for example community building. We want to make sure we are meeting the needs of sophomores, particularly coming out of COVID-19.”

College second-year Hayden Doleys is considering enrolling in SOAR for the spring.

“I think it sounds like a good idea,” Doleys said. “I’m probably going to sign up for it just for the experience.”

However, Doleys feels that the program might not offer anything unique that students can’t access through other College resources.

“I already have kind of my thing going on,” Doleys said. “I go to the Career Development Center. I have advisors there, I have my success coach. So it almost feels like I don’t need this because I’m already working with other people, if that makes sense — because I’ve already kind of got a plan in place that I’ve already implemented.”