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Monday, December 06, 2021

UW-Madison revamps SOAR program in response to complaints

After receiving complaints of long days and a "rushed" orientation, UW-Madison is changing the way incoming freshman take placement tests, the university announced Thursday.

Rather than taking the tests during Student Orientation, Advising and Registration, new Badgers must now complete their placement exams before attending SOAR.

"This allows students to test at their pace, and when they're ready," said Coordinator of Orientation Advising and Operations Chris Verhaeghe.

Under the new plan, incoming students can choose to take their placement tests at any UW System campus, at select out-of-state facilities and at any ACT testing center nationwide, as long as they finish the test at least a week before their SOAR session.

Taking the tests prior to orientation will alter the SOAR experience, spreading new student advising across two days and "allowing students to consult their parents or guests about the decisions they're making," Verhaeghe said.

The changes address issues raised by students, faculty and staff during a comprehensive review of the SOAR experience commissioned by the Center for the First-Year Experience in 2009.

"A lot of feedback says the program felt rushed," Verhaeghe explained.

Other student reviewers complained about the long day, where testing started at 8 a.m. and the day ended at 10 p.m., after SOAR participants finished an entire day of orientation. "It just created a long experience," Verhaeghe said.

Other changes include a new option allowing students to take placement tests by computer, rather than with pencil and paper.

The new program takes effect at this summer's SOAR program.

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