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Incoming GSU students get a glimpse what college life will be like through SOAR
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Jessi Clark, 18, of Eatonton settles in for an orientation of Georgia Southern's Honors Program during Tuesday's SOAR program for incoming freshmen. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    During summer break, few students like to think about school. They relax or get a job and forget about academics. But things are different for Georgia Southern’s incoming freshmen. They aren't just thinking about college; they're experiencing it.
    Eight two-day sessions of Southern’s Orientation, Advisement and Registration (SOAR) began Monday and will run once weekly through the week of July 17. The orientation sessions allow incoming students to experience GSU up close and personal. The program, which is mandatory, allows students to speak with their advisors, register for classes and find out what student life is really like – or at least get a glimpse of how they will spend their time as a college student.
    “We really hope that students get a feel for GSU and feel like a part of the GSU family when they return in the fall,” said Vince Miller, assistant director of Admissions, Orientation, and Parent Programs.
    “SOAR has been a big help. All the sessions emphasize important things, and they answer all your questions,” said incoming freshman Stephanie Olive, a Virginia native planning on majoring in Sports Medicine. "It gives you a good look into the actual college experience."
    Making incoming students feel at home is a top priority for the SOAR program, Miller said. Students experience dorm life as they spend the night on campus in Oliff or Windburn Hall. They attend multiple presentations from various departments and student groups, and can ask current students acting as SOAR leaders any other questions they might have.
    SOAR leader Mike Sterling, a GSU sophomore majoring in International Trade, believes the program helps incoming students see things from a student’s perspective.
    “I deal with issues related more to student life than anything else,” said Sterling, “I tell them what it’s like without their mom looking over their shoulder.”
     SOAR leaders like Sterling complete two weeks of intensive training before the program begins, so that, according to Sterling, they “can answer any question you can imagine.”
    Incoming students who participate in SOAR generally believe the program is informative and will ease their transition from high school to college.
    “It’s been really organized in explaining what’s going to happen in the fall,” said Devaugh Sidifall, who plans to major in physics and chemistry, “It helped explain how college life is going to be different from high school.”
    Although they don’t spend much time together during the program, parents are encouraged to attend SOAR along with their child. Various presentations intended for parents answer questions related to their child’s experience.
    “The program for parents is a good idea,” said Laurie Olive, mother of Stephanie Olive, “It gets parents all the information they need and makes them feel more comfortable about sending their child to college.”
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