Who are the PALs?

The PALs are a highly diverse group of student leaders committed to mentoring and supporting incoming Obies. True to the PAL program’s ethos of Obies Helping Obies, many students choose to become PALs to pay forward the support they received during their own first year on campus.

How are the PALs selected?

In order to become a PAL, students must submit an application and participate in a highly selective interview process. All applications are thoroughly reviewed with an eye toward selecting students who have a demonstrated commitment to peer mentorship, energy and enthusiasm about the PAL program and its mission, and are excited to welcome new students to campus in the fall. All PALs have a passion for creating safe spaces in which first-year students can flourish both academically and socially.

Who will be in my PAL cohort?

Each PAL cohort is composed of the 15 students who all share a class together through the First-Year Seminar program. This small group will work together as a team to support each other as you navigate your first semester as an Obie, whether that be in the classroom, during your PAL sessions, or at a completely unrelated social event.

Will PAL be in-person or remote this year?

The PAL program will begin remotely on August 3, with the beginning of New Student Orientation and the “Critical Skills for New Obies” Winter Term experience. After students arrive to campus, PAL sessions will be conducted in hybrid format, and we will endeavor to occasionally — and safely — gather in person. However, we also know that public health realities are rapidly shifting, and so all PAL sessions are fully flexible in terms of format — they can be delivered either in person or via Zoom.

How often will my cohort meet?

PAL cohorts meet regularly throughout New Student Orientation and the fall semester. For the Fall 2020 semester, many scheduling details still have yet to be finalized. Cohorts will begin meeting remotely via Zoom on August 3, with regular meetings taking place between then and Thanksgiving break. More information will be available soon regarding the Fall 2020 schedule; in the meantime, please reach out to pal@oberlin.edu with any questions you may have.

In a typical year, cohorts meet daily during orientation and then approximately every other week throughout the fall semester. In addition to these scheduled sessions, PALs will often schedule informal social events for their cohorts as well, giving students additional opportunities to bond.

What if I am not available for all the remote planning in August?

We understand that, prior to arriving on campus, students will still have obligations to family, work, and more. With this in mind, we have tried to build as much flexibility into the remote schedule as possible. Still, it may be the case that students find themselves double-booked for one or more sessions. If this happens, just reach out to pal@oberlin.edu and we will address any scheduling conflicts on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the specific conflict, it will likely be possible for a student to miss one or two sessions and still receive Winter Term credit.

Is PAL more social or academic?

It’s a mixture of both! The program was specifically designed to bridge academic and social experiences, which is a big reason why PAL has such a close relationship with the First-Year Seminar program. The idea is that, through sharing both an academic class and a PAL-led discussion group, students will get to know each other in a range of contexts and build relationships both inside and outside the classroom.

Can I meet students from other cohorts?

We understand that, in the context of public health realities that have forced many social interactions to become digital, making friends and building community in a new place likely feels daunting. Your PAL cohort will be one of your first and strongest campus communities, but it’s important to build relationships elsewhere as well. For this reason, we are planning a range of programming throughout the fall semester that will allow for students to bond across cohorts, in addition to within their own.

Can I opt out of PAL or switch groups?

An objective of the program’s cohort approach is to support students in creating bonds of mutual support, and so switching sections of LEAD 050 (the PAL-led fall semester course) is not permitted. Like all full-semester academic and co-curricular courses, you may decide to opt out of LEAD 050 prior to the deadline for withdrawing from a full semester course. If you decide to opt out you will not receive credit for this course. The August Winter Term program is required for all Arts & Sciences students, and encouraged for all Double Degree students.

Will I get a grade? Is there homework?

Grading for both the August Winter Term project and the LEAD 050 sessions throughout the fall is based upon full participation. Those who participate fully will receive a Pass grade on their transcript. During August, students will work with the members of their cohort to complete a reflection-driven final assignment in order to receive Winter Term credit. During the fall, work assigned outside of sessions will be focused on helping students develop and practice skills and strategies discussed during sessions.

When do I find out who my PAL is?

For the Fall 2020 semester, you will be able to (virtually) meet your PAL in late July, shortly before New Student Orientation begins on August 3. We are not able to reveal PAL assignments early, but please know that we are working to get you this information as soon as we can. We know that meeting the older student who will play such a big role in your first semester is important!

Who can I talk to if I’m having a problem with another student in my group or with my PAL?

If you are having a problem with another student and feel comfortable approaching your PAL about it, feel free to do so — PALs are trained to handle such concerns on a case-by-case basis. If you don’t feel comfortable with this, or have a problem with your PAL, please contact Nathan Carpenter, director of the PAL program, at pal@oberlin.edu.


Do transfer students participate in PAL and LEAD 050?

The short answer is: Yes! Transfer students are automatically added to PAL cohorts and are able to fully participate in meetings throughout orientation and the fall semester. Students with specific questions about the transfer student experience as it pertains to PAL can reach out to pal@oberlin.edu.

How much are faculty and staff involved in the PAL program?

An important element of the PAL program is preparing students with the tools they need to make the most of their academic advising experience. To support this goal, academic advisors and First-Year Seminar instructors meet with each cohort at key points throughout orientation and the fall semester, helping students map out their academic goals and prepare for key experiences like course registration.