The First-Year Experience

Welcome to St. Olaf!

We’re excited to support you as you create your path to success at and beyond St. Olaf.

During your first year at St. Olaf, the First-Year Experience offers opportunities for you to explore campus resources, take courses designed for your college transition, and find the people and programs that will support your personal growth, social development, and academic success.

What is the First-Year Experience?

The First-Year Experience at St. Olaf provides you with a foundation for college success. The courses that make up the First-Year Experience focus on critical thinking, discussion, research and writing skills to prepare you for your college experience. These courses are coupled with a year-long orientation program that provides you with the skills you need to succeed: St Olaf Orientation to Academic Resources, known as “SOAR” for short.

You may complete your First-Year Experience on one of two paths. You may take First-Year Seminar 120 and Writing 120 as individual courses, one in the fall and the other in the spring, OR you may enroll in a Conversations program.

Students who opt for the First-Year Seminar 120 and Writing 120 are split into two groups. One group takes First-Year Seminar 120 in the Fall and one group takes Writing 120 in the Fall. In the spring, students who completed First-Year Seminar 120 then take Writing 120, and students who completed Writing 120 take First-Year Seminar 120. You cannot take both First-Year Seminar 120 and Writing 120 in the same semester.

The Conversations programs focus courses around a theme that students engage with in multiple courses during one or two years.  Through the Conversations, students may fulfill additional Core requirements beyond the First-Year Seminar 120 and Writing 120. You do not have to participate in a Conversations program; in fact, only 30% of incoming students do.

Regardless of your path, all incoming students are required to complete the SOAR program.

All students take two courses as part of their First Year Experience:
a First-Year Seminar course and a Writing and Rhetoric course.
You can choose to enroll in
Individual Courses OR enroll in a Conversation Program.
What interests you? Explore your two option paths below.


You can choose to complete the First-Year Experience by selecting from a variety of different courses. You will be with a different group of students and different faculty member each term.

Click below to see a sampling of the 80+ courses offered in the past for First-Year Seminar and Writing and Rhetoric. You’ll get to review this year’s course offerings soon when you meet for advising!



You can choose to complete the First-Year Experience by selecting to be in a Conversation program. You will be with the same group of students throughout the year. Some of the Conversations programs are one year, some are two years. 

Click below to see what the options are for continued conversation this upcoming year!

Learn More

Do you have questions?

Someone else might be wondering the same too!
Visit our FAQ page about St. Olaf’s First-Year Experience.

FRequently asked Questions