Musings about academe in haphazard fashion.
I have had different experiences with advising over the years. I have my own high school experience with counselors and undergraduate and graduate advising at Tulane University and Texas Christian University, from a student’s point of view. I remember thinking that high school counselors were useless and that I knew more about the subjects I intended to study and what schools were appropriate from my own research in our town library. However ineffectual and “useless” I believed them to be, I was the one who selected Allegheny College in Meadville, PA and a major in French from which I later dropped the major and dropped the school.
After a number of years hiatus I entered Tulane’s Newcomb College (at that time the undergraduate women’s school) and recall the semester meetings with my advisor, who happened to also be the Dean. We did chat about courses and I was usually impressed with her demeanor and assistance, but I always had my courses planned out ahead of time for my program in Linguistics and, later, double major in History. The advisor role, for me, was to fix issues that I could not fix myself, whether an overloaded class schedule request, a full class that I wanted to be wait listed, or something similar. The same is true for my graduate experience; I do not recall ever talking with our graduate advisor except when it came to being a Teaching Assistant or for research abroad.
In the past 10+ years, I also have gained a teacher/faculty point of view from informal student counseling while I taught Spanish and Latin at North Reading High School in Massachusetts, to college advising for History majors, whether at small, private, Presbyterian Blackburn College in Illinois, or the much larger Augusta State University (now Georgia Regents University). Now seeing things from an alternate point of view, I am surprised each semester how ill prepared students are with their advising appointments and with their academic career in general. I might have three or four students out of my advising group of 10 to 15 majors who actually have looked online prior to coming to my office to even see what courses are being offered. Maybe one or two might actually have a track sheet that they have been updating with courses taken and those projected to take to graduation completion. The rest…well…see the cartoon images.
It would seem to me an issue of maturity and a misguided sense of entitlement that most students believe their professors, when in an advising role, should be the ones to map out the four years of a student’s life and be privy to the student’s wants, needs, abilities, as well as being Dr. Fortune Teller peering into a crystal ball to gauge future job prospects.
Personally, I really enjoy the pre-registration, registration, and orientation times each semester. Some of my colleagues dread the experience and I occasionally will assist with a student or two on their behalf. It is not easy for any of us to memorize all the basic course #s for our Major, let alone know the requirements for Minors outside our field, transfer credit, or dual-enrolled students. However, I like the interaction, the informal conversation, and the out-of-the-classroom experience that those meetings hold–that is, if the students are engaged, energetic about their futures, and taking control of their own lives. Then, being a guide is a pleasure–asking questions, getting the student to see possibilities, and opening new doors or opportunity, whether graduate school, internships, or careers.
The students who walk in and sit and wait to be fed the information, this is the problem and the solution will not be fixed by a professor. I worry about those students who have seemingly no direction, no goals, mediocre engagement in their courses and average grades. They are simply letting time pass by as they did in high school just waiting for the next diploma and be passed along into their next “4 years”. But, when the Bachelor’s Degree is attained, there is no “next four years” and how will they fair in a competitive world and in the job market? I want all the students who walk through my office door, all who take my classes, all who attend my university to succeed. And, any student who takes the initiative and who has the personal drive will receive my full attention and all my energy to help guide them towards success. But, success is earned, not given and progress in that direction takes soul searching that the student has to be willing to undertake.