One of the best things about being a student is having summers off. As a senior, I am unfortunately preparing myself for the loss of this privilege (I cry sometimes), but because my free summers are finished, I feel it is my duty to give advice to those of you who may still have a few left. Summer breaks are a great time for travel, relaxation, and making some extra money at your seasonal job, but there are other options.

The Student Opportunities for Academic Research (SOAR) program offers students from all disciplines opportunities to spend a portion of their summer on campus performing research. Now I know what you are thinking, ‘Why would I want to go back to Moravian and lose my free summer?’ but I promise SOAR is a great option.

The program runs for 10 weeks beginning at the start of the Summer 1 Session. This means that you still have the end of summer to do whatever great plans you have. Within these 10 weeks, you set your own schedule, choose your own hours, and collaborate with your professor as you see fit. The requirements are that you maintain a timeline established between you and your supervising professor, but most are very flexible. Every week all SOAR students gather to watch a presentation of the work of one of their peers over lunch, but for the most part the time is completely open. You can start early, sleep in and work late, take days off, etc. Essentially you build your own hours based on the requirements of the project.

So what do you do with all this free time? Well if you are staying on campus (I highly recommend you do this because housing is FREE) you will be rooming with a bunch of other SOAR students who are looking for things to do…my suite was dedicated to two very different things: athletics and board games. In addition, SOAR offers free events like a trip to Dorney Park and an IronPigs game. These events, like the housing, are completely free.

What’s even better, SOAR is a program that pays, and in more ways than one. Not only does SOAR give you a stipend for your time (paid biweekly), you also are offered unlimited coffee (for those early morning meetings), lunches, a potential stipend for academic conventions, and general funding for your project.

Above all else, SOAR provides great experience. It shows graduate schools that you can be engaged in the types of research that are expected at the graduate level, and is also a great talking point for application interviews. This year, SOAR students are heading to Memphis to discuss their projects at the National Conference on Undergraduate research—another fantastic opportunity folded in for FREE.

In case everything above hasn’t made it abundantly clear: SOAR is an amazing program and a great opportunity for students. If you are interested, go talk to your favorite professor about SOAR, or look for postings about research projects for which faculty are actively recruiting. As someone with no summers left, who can look back on how he spent them all, this was by far one of the best. See for yourself.

My Project: Laying the Groundwork for a Writing-Enriched Curriculum at Moravian College

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