The PAL program aims to create a sense of community among incoming Oberlin students and help them make the most of their first-year experience, both inside and outside the classroom.

Peer Advising Leaders (PALs) are upper-class students who have been trained to work directly with incoming College of Arts and Sciences and Double Degree Progam students and help ease the transition to Oberlin life and learning. Each PAL leads a cohort of 15 new students who are also in a class together through the First-Year Seminar program (FYSP). In this way, members of each cohort share academic, cocurricular, and social experiences throughout their first semester, forming bonds that will last through the rest of their time at Oberlin and beyond.

The PALs are there to help students every step of the way. During New Student Orientation in August, as well as the fall semester, PALs facilitate a range of sessions to introduce students to Oberlin and its surrounding communities, explain important campus policies like the Honor Code, prepare students for course registration and appointments with their academic advisor, build effective communication skills, and so much more.

This year, the PAL program has significantly expanded in order to more fully meet the needs of students transitioning to college in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read how the PALs will work with incoming students to ensure their academic, social, and personal success during the 2020–21 academic year. You can read more information about the college’s COVID-19 planning.

The PAL program is made possible through a collaborative effort involving the Academic Advising Resource Center, the Division of Student Life, and the College of Arts and Sciences.


Nathan Carpenter '20
Director, PAL and SOAR Programs

PAL Activities: Summer and Fall 2020

Each section below contains information about how and when PALs will engage with students matriculating to Oberlin in fall 2020, beginning this summer and continuing through their first semester.

Beginning in April, PALs served as remote discussion group leaders for Uncovering COVID-19: Critical Liberal Arts Perspectives, a special two-credit course offered to new Obies. This work continued in courses offered through Oberlin’s new Summer Academic Enrichment program, which runs through late July. Through these small group discussions, as well as other summer programming, PALs have not only had a chance to meet many of the students in the incoming class, but also get a sense for what students are thinking about during this unique time of transition.

Beginning August 3, all incoming Arts & Sciences and Double Degree students are invited to participate in a month-long Winter Term project entitled “Critical Skills for New Obies.” This program is required for A&S students, and optional (though encouraged!) for Double Degree students. All students are required to complete three Winter Term projects before graduating from Oberlin. A detailed schedule for this Winter Term experience will be sent to students and families as soon as it is available. For more information, please visit the Winter Term site.

Typically, Winter Term takes place during the month of January, but has been moved this year as part of temporary changes to the academic calendar in response to COVID-19. PALs will play a key role in facilitating this Winter Term experience, hosting regular sessions throughout the month to prepare their cohorts for their first semester on campus. Many of these sessions will be required for both New Student Orientation and Winter Term. They will focus on a range of topics and themes, including:

  • Racial justice, particularly within the context of recent events;
  • Effective communication and establishing group norms in the context of COVID-19;
  • Political, social, and historical landscape of Oberlin, Cleveland, and Northeast Ohio.

You will have the opportunity to explore these topics while developing competencies to succeed as a student, such as:

  • Academic goal-setting for the fall semester;
  • Overcoming imposter syndrome;
  • Time management and organizational skills;
  • College-level project planning and execution.

The Winter Term experience will culminate with a reflection process that students will complete by working together in cohorts. Through this experience, students will develop and hone skills necessary to work in teams in academic environments. More information about this final project will be provided directly to students in early August.

During the fall semester, all incoming Arts & Sciences and Double Degree students continue their cohort experience through enrolling in a credit-bearing, co-curricular course entitled “LEAD 050: Introduction to Oberlin Life & Learning.” In this course, which is led by their PAL, students attend a series of sessions that are scheduled to coincide with important dates and deadlines in the academic calendar, ensuring that they have the information they need when they need it. More information about the specific timing and topics of sessions will be provided to students during New Student Orientation in August.

LEAD 050 and its curriculum has been endorsed by the College faculty and recommended for all Arts & Sciences and Double Degree students. In past years, more than 90% of students have elected to participate in the course, with a vast majority reporting that it has helped ease their transition to Oberlin.

PAL and the First-Year Seminar Program (FYSP)

The PAL Program is closely aligned with the First-Year Seminar Program (FYSP), helping first-year students develop skills in critical and creative thinking, discussion, and writing, while becoming acquainted with resources available for learning at Oberlin.


Are you a first-year student or PAL with further questions about the program? Check out our FAQ. If you don’t find your answer there, please feel free to reach out to Nathan Carpenter, director of PAL, at You can also keep up with PAL on Twitter!