Advising sessions need to be more productive

Student advising comes around once every semester. For the lucky ones, there is only one appointment to attend, and it happens to be with a member of their own department. For the vast majority, this may or may not be a possibility.

Let’s take a look at Shaina’s plan for her years at Baylor. She was accepted into the BIC program, would like to major double major in journalism and environmental science and is also a student athlete. Jerry, on the other hand, is planning on majoring in business with no additional majors or minors. Shaina will be required to attend 3 advising periods, and will have one additional advisement that is highly encouraged. Jerry is required to meet with one advisor. This inconsistency in both scheduling and advisement given by differing departments can be hard for more involved students to handle.

One difficulty students find with general advisors is their tendency to see credits as numbers on a page. These suggestions are usually knowledgeable and meant to push students to their projected graduation day, but members of a department might not recommend the credits be fulfilled in the same way. While graduating is the main goal, being able to take the classes that the department believes will benefit students most is better than graduating with the bare minimum.

This is one of the reasons that some individual departments require students also meet with an advisor within the department. For example, students involved in the BIC program must attend a separate advising appointment, in addition to any minor or majors they may be pursuing. This can be helpful to students, but can also make decisions harder after a student is given differing opinions on what the best path for course work is. Having another advising appointment is also difficult for students to fit into schedules, as the appointments are primarily during class hours. While some of these appointments are not required, it is highly recommended that students attend them.

This process can double or triple for students who choose to double major or minor in multiple subjects. Each department requests an advising period each semester, and each prioritizes its own subject’s classes, leaving students confused on which department should dominate their schedules.

Some students receive new advisors as they continue in their studies, allowing for their department to become the main source of scheduling advice. This typically happens once the student is already settled into their classes. These students may either need a little help fulfilling the last of their requirements or a rude awakening by the fact that they were following a different path to graduation than the department would prefer. Because of this, advising should stem from departments at an earlier time than they are implemented now.

General advisors are necessary for incoming freshmen before school starts, as courses are relatively similar for most freshmen, and those who need specific help have the entire summer to get in contact with professors in order to smooth over any questions they may have. Advising after the first semester should begin to take a more formalized look at courses, perhaps assigning an advisor to specific departments rather than general schools, such as the College of Arts and Sciences (CASA) advisors changing to an advisor for each major in each department, so that their course suggestions follow the department’s more closely, and separate advisement is no longer required. Additionally, students with minors could possibly meet with their advisors once a year rather than every semester. This would result in a smaller amount of advising appointments and more flexibility with minor course scheduling.

While this may not work for every student, advisors are available by appointment during the school year. Alleviating the stress of trying to schedule required appointments would give advisors more time to help the specific needs of students who feel the need to revisit direction they were given. These suggestions would then come from one or two advisors, rather than a multitude. If this is still too much stress for students, they could simply choose to not go to one of the non-required advising appointments.

With this in mind, students can work to follow the best path they can while listening to the people who know the most about what they are going through.