On Monday, April 13, about a month into our new virtual world, First Year Initiatives Counselor Katelyn Eden sent an email to faculty and staff about the new "virtual" SOAR sessions.
She and New Student Orientation Coordinator Cara Luyster, had worked feverishly to create a new experience for students that would be hosted on Zoom. Their first session was only days away.
The newly designed Orientation was still required for new students, it still had two parts, students still had to register through Reynolds website, and the same material - directions, Financial Aid, resources, success tips, advising - would be covered. But, all of it virtually.
Now, three months later, the new normal, is, well, becoming normal.
Katelyn gives this report about the accomplishments of the virtual SOAR sessions to date:
Alongside Cara Luyster . . .
- We made 1,500 SOAR seats available from our start back on April 15th through August 14th. So far, we have had 214 students attend as of Friday, May 22nd.
- SOAR will remain virtual for the remainder of the summer through August, and we are working on a plan to extend SOAR into the fall semester for 12 week start students and beyond.
- SOAR is mostly on Wednesday and Fridays, however there are several Tuesday sessions and Wednesday evening sessions to increase the number of seats that are available and flexibility for students who have other obligations during the daytime hours.
- Reynolds is one of the first in the VCCS to have a live virtual orientation, and we have had other schools and staff shadow our innovation!
- SOAR is composed of a 30 minute welcome, 30 minute “How to Pay for College” session with financial aid staff, a 30 minute advising appointment and assistance with registering for courses and identifying any next steps.
- Overall, virtual SOAR has been very positive. We are truly bringing SOAR to the comfort of the student's living room, and we have had several memorable moments including students who have joined orientation from their bed in a fuzzy robe, pets making a guest appearance, while driving in a car, a student joining us from the break room of their job, and a whole family appearance including grandparents and significant others.
- Students and families have expressed that in a time of losing a lot of important moments (like graduation, prom, etc), it has been nice to have a live program to attend and have some of that excitement of senior year return. Our non-traditional students are also appreciating the flexibility of virtual SOAR. Below are a few response from our SOAR eval survey:
Originial email from Katelyn:
From Katelyn Eden,
From Katelyn Eden,
Counselor, First Year Initiatives
Email: Monday, April 13
The New Student Orientation team has been quickly working to create a virtual orientation experience for new students. “SOAR” or Student Orientation Advising and Registration program has its first few sessions scheduled for the second week of April, and they will be hosted completely online through Zoom.
SOAR is still a two-part orientation program, and is required for new students wanting to start classes in fall 2020.
Students are encouraged to register for a live virtual SOAR session through our orientation website and will need to complete a virtual Go2Reynolds online orientation component prior to their SOAR session. This online orientation includes:
· Directions on the enrollment process
· Valuable information from financial aid on how to pay for college
· College resources and their functions
· Tips on how to be a successful college student and more!
The GoReynolds site available to anyone so feel free to visit and review: go2reynolds.com. You do not need to use your MyReynolds log in credentials.
During the live virtual SOAR program students:
· Engage in a zoom welcome session
· Meet with an academic advisor
· Interact with a staff member or Student Ambassador for registration assistance and directions on next steps
As of right now, we have virtual SOAR dates scheduled into May, however we will likely be extending our virtual program for the remainder of the summer. SOAR sessions take place on Wednesday afternoons and Friday mornings for now. [Update: SOAR sessions are scheduled through the summer.]
If a new student approaches you and asks where to begin or how to sign up, please share these handy references:
You can also refer students to firstname.lastname@example.org or our SOAR line 804-523-5155. Thanks for everything you do!
Questions? Contact Katelyn Eden, 523-5369, or Cara Luyster, 523-5096.