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Incoming students and parents listen to a presentation by faculty and the UW Libraries during a SOAR event.

How different is college from high school? What do professors expect of their students? What are the keys to academic success? Beginning the journey through college, whether as a freshman, transfer, or an international student can be an eye-opening experience – for both students and parents. At the University of Wisconsin–Madison a program through the Center for First-Year Experience that partners key campus resources has been helping students SOAR into their new lives – the Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration program.

For more than 25 years, the UW–Madison Libraries have been an important part of the SOAR program. Partnering with faculty, and new this year, librarians help showcase the chance for academic success in and out of the classroom.

“Having the Libraries partner with faculty to share important messages for parents about academic success is a wonderful opportunity,” said Carrie Kruse, Director at College Library. “Often students turn to their parents for advice when they have questions or are struggling with something in school. It’s nice to remind parents of the campus resources available to help students succeed. They’re able to refer their students to the campus experts.”

For the more than 4,500 students, along with their parents/guests that participate in SOAR, they learn the Libraries are key partners in providing a safe space to study, while getting acquainted with college-level, world-class research resources. They also learn about the different resources to help meet every time of learning and study need possible.

“We want our students to be active learners,” said UW–Madison Philosophy Professor Steve Nadler during a SOAR presentation. “Students succeed when they take initiative and take advantage of the intimate learning environments available.”

SOAR not only gives Libraries the chance to solidify the decision to attend UW by a student, it helps the Libraries offer the reassurance to students that we are a part of a strong network that will support their academic endeavors.

“The libraries are partners in the university’s research and teaching missions,” notes Kruse.

Library staff also note that research suggests that campus Libraries play an important role in helping students select a university. The same sentiment seems to hold true for a parent’s perception of a university: a strong and inviting library system makes a difference.

“Partnering with faculty, we help jumpstart the discussion reinforcing the idea that learning isn’t confined to just the classroom,” said Sheila Shoeckel, Interim Director of Teaching & Learning Programs with the UW-Madison Libraries.

The Libraries support students throughout their academic career, and have special opportunities in place to engage first-year students. During Welcome Week, the College and Steenbock Libraries have their annual House Party and Luau events – fun gatherings to ease students into the library settings and meet staff. Similar events are held during finals to help students decompress.

But beyond the fun and games of Welcome Week and finals celebrations, SOAR shows how resources around campus can provide academic success. With the Libraries part of that infrastructure, students learn about the satellite space for support services such as the Writing Center, Advising, and Tutoring, just to name a few. This cross-campus collaboration with faculty and staff is designed to give students the strongest start possible to their college life.

“A college setting is intimidating,” Stoeckel explained. “The faculty and staff on this campus want to create an environment from the start that opens the doors to resources for students and make the process a little less daunting. Academic success is up to the student, but it is our job to provide the tools and path to accomplish their goals.”