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Incoming students preview college life at SOAR

Published on June 28, 2023

Incoming students preview college life at SOAR

Incoming students pause on a tour of campus.

New students learned about majors and minors at Eastern.

Student Orientation Counselors led incoming students around campus.

More than 97% of the Class of 2027 at Eastern Connecticut State University participated in four sessions of SOAR, a two-day, on-site orientation for incoming students this June.

The new students met faculty and fellow students, finalized fall registration and acclimated to what will be their new surroundings starting in late August. The SOAR (student orientation, advising and registration) program will hold a final one-day session on Aug. 16 for first-time students who were unable to attend in June and a special SOAR for transfer students on Aug. 17. An online orientation is also available in July.

The new students will get a Warrior Welcome on Aug. 26-28.

New students use SOAR to learn about choosing courses, finding university resources, participating in extracurricular activities and living on campus, said senior Alexis Annan, one of the head Student Orientation Counselors (SOCs). “Personally, my own experience with orientation at Eastern was very different, as I came during (the) COVID year and didn’t experience a traditional SOAR,” she said. “Despite this, there were many sessions to join virtually that helped me form connections, discover campus services and adapt to the academic and social aspects of college life.”

Student orientation counselors gather for an enthusiastic photo before welcoming incoming students to campus. 

“We were really excited about this year’s SOAR schedule. We provided students with plenty of opportunities to make connections with other new students," said Casey Kensey, director of new student and family programs. "We also focused on supporting students’ emotional and academic transitions into college by offering presentations and engagement opportunities with CAPS (counseling and psychological services) and Eastern’s faculty.”

At a “Student Life” panel during one of the June SOAR sessions, four SOCs answered new students’ questions. Sadie Blackwell, a sophomore psychology major, volleyball player and a SOC, advised the incoming students to make a “to-do” list every night to keep track of their activities. Another SOC, junior Nikki Flynn, told them, “The Outlook calendar is my best friend.” SOC Brayden Alexis, a junior psychology major, said that he keeps sticky notes everywhere – even on his phone case – as visual reminders of his schedule.

All four counselors urged the new students to exercise caution and use the buddy system when attending social events off campus. Flynn pointed out that with 75 blue lights (emergency calling stations), the campus itself is safe and the police are within reach.

Their own biggest adjustment to student life, the counselors said, was learning to talk to new people and learning how to study. “The Academic Success Center was my saving grace,” said Alexis, for its tutoring and writing support.

“Invite people to go to a program with you or hang out,” advised SOC Mekaih Sampson, a senior psychology major who said he was reluctant at first to approach people, but it became easy with practice.

Bryce Crapser, director of counseling and psychological services, told the new students that “sometimes it’s important to identify what’s going to be new and different” so that they can adjust to college life. Especially in the first few weeks, new students should take a personal inventory to identify how they feel and develop strategies to cope and adjust. If they are struggling, students should contact the counseling center, he said. 

In the end, everyone is looking for connection, Crapser said. “Support each other,” he urged.

Written by Lucinda Weiss