Manchester University
Oak Leaves

September 14, 2018


Student Orientation Leader Morgan Shumaker holds up a Monsters Inc. themed sign to greet her group of first-year students. Each year, Welcome Week follows a specific theme, this year’s theme being movies. 

Photo provided

SOLs Guide, Befriend First-Years, Serve as Mentors

Kaleigh Gabriel

During Welcome Week on Manchester University’s campus, first-year students build bonds with their Student Orientation Leaders (SOLs) through both formal, scheduled activities and informal ones such as dinnertime chats. The SOLs do everything from helping answer questions that students might have to helping to build friendships with the students in their groups.

From 4 p.m. on move-in day until the first day of class on Wednesday, SOLs led their first-years through many pre-planned events to help them get acclimated to their new environment. However, pre-orchestrated events are not all the SOLs did for their students. Many have gone out of their way to bond with their first-years and build friendships with them.

As the name Student Orientation Leader implies, SOLs help make the transition to college life easier for students. SOLs guide their first-years in areas such as navigating the new campus, meeting with advisors and staff to adjust to classes, meeting new people and making the overall adjustment to life away from home an easier one than if he or she made the change alone.

“Transitioning to college was a really hard thing for me and my SOLs made me feel so much more comfortable,” said first-year Mary O’Neill. “Not only with everything to do with school, but also just general problems. It didn’t matter whether I was struggling with being away from my family, or just fitting in, my SOLs were there to help.”

SOL groups could be seen together at breakfast, lunch and dinner, but many groups also participated in activities outside of campus such as a group dinner at one of North Manchester’s restaurants. Other groups took small field trips to stores such as Target and Walmart to shop for supplies students had forgotten to pack for their move.

“Our SOLs took us on a dorm room tour, which helped me become accustomed to residential life,” said first-year Connor Glenn.  He noted that this helped him get to know his group better. Glenn would consider his relationship with his SOLs to be most like having advisors, and he knows that they are always there if he has questions.

First-year Jojo DeLaRosa has a clear description of the bond that a first-year has with their SOLs. “I call my SOLs my moms,” she said. “We talk about weird things sometimes that can be super random, but in the short time I have known them, they have been amazing and true people of confidence. I feel I can talk to them about anything and not feel weird about it because they have experience with being in college.”

DeLaRosa also says that SOLs, and not just her two assigned leaders, have always been willing to help her with any questions she may have, especially when trying to navigate the campus. “Other people see us looking lost and automatically label you a first-year, while SOLs will see you and take you to your class or explain to you how to get there,” she said.

SOLs have a large impact on the incoming first-years and how they adapt to life on campus and the expectations of college.  By spending time with first-years at dinner and through other events such as hall tours, they help to establish bonds within their first-years that instills confidence in them for the next few weeks as they adjust and make friends.