Last fall, the College addressed a significant hole in the academic advising system by implementing a policy that forced sophomores an oft forgotten group likely to be at an academic crossroads to continue to, at the very least, obtain permission from an adviser before registering for classes. And while the sophomore advising program was a step in the right direction, the College hasn’t addressed the heart of the issue that undecided students are not receiving adequate guidance in the field they are interested in from the very start of their college careers.
Problems with advising haven’t stemmed from those who have already sought out an advisor for their major. The real issue was that those students who hadn’t declared a major were in need of guidance and weren’t getting it.
This problem starts as a freshman, when a student is randomly assigned to a pre-major adviser. The adviser isn’t necessarily in the department the student might be interested in majoring in or even the general field it isn’t unusual to see students interested in majoring in English to come under the wing of a biology professor leaving freshmen to rely more heavily on the Registrar (and often out-of-date) course descriptions, instead of the first-hand account of a mentor experienced in a student’s field of interest. Instead of random assignment, placement under a certain adviser should be based exclusively on the professed interest of the student. If students are undecided, they are likely leaning toward a general area, such as humanities, that can be noted on the Intent to Enroll form. Pairing pre-major advisers with students based on similar vested interests would undoubtedly help facilitate a relationship that is more substantial than a semester e-mail requesting course approval.
In a recent interview with the Campus Times, Provost Ralph Kuncl mentioned, ‘We often measure success rates by graduation and retention… but it all happens because of the richness of interpersonal experiences.” That rich interpersonal experience Kuncl refers to needs to start freshman year, when a student most needs guidance, support and the experience of an adviser who is able to adequately direct a student down his or her chosen academic path.