The best part of SOAR was not the carrot cake or talking about how a picture of a forest made me feel with a Future Badger from Maryland, (You’ll understand when you get there). It was not even getting my Wiscard and breathing a sigh of relief when the picture wasn’t the worst one I’ve ever taken.
Imagine this: You’re sitting in a desk chair surrounded by people you don’t really know. In front of you sits a laptop with hundreds of choices on the screen. The clock in the corner of the desktop reads 9:28 AM. You have two minutes to make not one, but several choices that could quite literally change the course of your life. Mission control? No, just College Library, where SOAR advising takes place.
That description is a little dramatic and not completely accurate, but it is a depiction of how I felt during the second day of SOAR. Freshmen can start registering for classes at 9:30 AM on the second day of their SOAR session, and as my peer advisor helpfully shared with me, some classes fill up almost immediately. A helpful suggestion- yes, but one that also made me feel like I was on the clock to make a lot of big decisions.
Despite those feelings, the best part of SOAR was one of those feelings that teeters on the edge of being bad: feeling in and out of control all at once. I had been waiting for the freedom to design a schedule that suited my personality for a long time; since most high schools offer limited chances for expression when it comes to scheduling. However, there were so many variables to think of, and as I said in my last post, math is not my forte. I had no idea where to start. Every new path seemed to lead to a new question. Should I take this American History class? What if it’s boring? How can I be a political science major if I think history is boring? If the library was mission control, my rocket was spiraling out of control quickly.
In retrospect, my first piece of advice is to take a deep breath before taking a seat on the second day of SOAR. When they say you’re going to walk out of there with a class schedule, they mean it. You might hate it a little (more on that later); but you’ll have a schedule, and that will be enough.
I already like to think of my advisor as a kind of second mom. My advisor was there for me when everyone else at my table was printing out their schedules and I was on the verge of a massive stress headache. I felt like I had all these expectations for what my schedule was going to be, and what I had on the computer screen just wasn’t meeting them. She coaxed me into taking an odd theater class to give me a few more credits and then took copious notes on what I really wanted to get into next semester to help me feel better. I didn’t leave feeling thrilled, but I was okay, for the moment.
There was about an hour and a half of small group sessions left after finishing our schedules, but I convinced my mom to swing by the library and walk to the Memorial Union with me instead. We got some lunch and a caffeinated beverage for my worn out brain, and I allowed myself to sit in an iconic terrace chair and think, probably overdramatically, about the past thirty hours.
I had a college ID card and a class schedule (despite it’s flaws). Here was tangible evidence that things were finally starting to get real. (Well, except for maybe putting down the first admissions deposit. Money has a way of making things… overly real.)
Secretly, I think that relaxing and people watching at Memorial Union was the best part of SOAR (even if we weren’t supposed to be there at the time). My feelings had done a complete 180 since attending an Admitted Students Day in April, when I felt overwhelmed and small in the face of new responsibilities. Something had shifted. I already wasn’t the same person who had been in high school a few weeks ago. I am still scared of things that seem insignificant for now; but I felt more competent, like maybe I could handle more than I thought.
As July came to a close, I thought I was done with scheduling. After all, when I got home from SOAR, I redid my class schedule on my own and was satisfied with the way it turned out. On a regular Tuesday, I saw that I had a new email in my WiscMail account. I thought it was probably just a generic message for freshmen, so I didn’t think much of it. Turns out the subject line actually read ‘Urgent – Opening in FIG 18’.
A First Year Interest Group (FIG) is a special group of classes centered around a specific theme and is only open to students in their first semester at UW-Madison. At SOAR, I had put myself on the waitlist for a FIG that catered to many of my interests, called “Globalization, World Regions, and Globalizing Education.”
I thought this would be inconsequential; since the FIG sounded super awesome, I assumed no one would drop out of it. Here was an incredible opportunity I had never guessed I would get, and I was still doubting if I should take it (just like I sometimes doubt a million other things). Yet, for the third time this summer, I redid my schedule to accommodate the FIG courses.
I haven’t even started school yet, and I’m already learning that taking chances can really pay off! Speaking of taking chances: I was really surprised that a few future classmates of mine read my last post and found it relatable enough to send me a message. I think that speaks to the quality of people attracted by UW-Madison; and it made me feel like I already belong somewhere, even among so many new freshmen. Thank you! A brief message goes a long way and helps me feel confident I can keep being honest in these blog posts.