When a freshman enters UR — whether it be the School of Arts & Sciences or the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences — he or she receives a pre-major advisor whose role is to be a guide in the process of beginning a college education. The difference between Arts & Sciences students and Hajim students, however, is that Arts & Sciences students are tossed to any random faculty member for advice, while Hajim students “intending to pursue an engineering program are accepted into the College in their first year and are assigned an advisor from the engineering faculty,” according to the Hajim website.
The flaw in this system is that Hajim students are presumably receiving detailed guidance from faculty who are knowledgeable in a relevant field, while Arts & Sciences students are, more often than not, left to fend for themselves, except in the rare case that a student randomly receives an advisor in a field that interests the student.
Though many of the pre-major advisors in the College of Arts & Sciences are very nice and approachable — certainly not something that should go unnoticed — they often times can’t offer direct advice, and understandably so. It shouldn’t be expected that a professor of philosophy be intricately familiar with the ins and outs of the physics department. There are certainly a large number of incoming freshmen with absolutely no idea of what they might want to study, but on the flipside there are enough students who have at least some idea of their interests that a change in the system would be worthwhile. For these students, an advisor in a random department essentially has little constructive use beyond merely being the person who lifts the hold for online registration. It is a problem that in a university with such an extensively experienced faculty, freshmen more often turn to upperclassmen for academic advice than to their pre-major advisors.
While the University could still allow freshmen to come entirely undecided and willingly be assigned a random advisor, they should have the option of indicating an academic interest. Even if the choice was so amorphous as just one of the three divisions of humanities, natural sciences and social sciences from which to be assigned an advisor, the pre-major advising system would be vastly improved in its status as a legitimate resource for students.