Academic advisors are essential in guiding college students to success, as registering for classes and meeting certain course requirements can be a difficult thing to navigate. By assigning each student an advisor to assist them personally during their college career, a school can keep students on the right track and ensure that they earn a degree in their chosen major. Although not impossible, it would be much more difficult for someone to go through this without any guidance or advice on academics, especially if it is foreign to them. With the process of registering for Spring 2022 classes beginning, advisors are in their prime time for helping students.
As a first-year student, I was extremely relieved in April of 2021, when I had committed to Fairfield University and found out that all of my first semester courses were chosen for my undecided major in the College of Arts and Sciences. Because I am undecided, my schedule was filled with introductory classes to help complete Magis core requirements. While my friends who were not attending Fairfield University were stressing out about what classes to take and meeting with their advisors, I was content, knowing that Fairfield had it all under control and that I would receive a schedule that worked best for me and my major. I had no need to meet with my advisor and did not hear from anyone in the Office of Academic Support and Retention, besides from receiving my schedule.
When I realized that I had to pick out my own classes for this coming spring semester, initially I was panicked. I had no idea how this process would work and I had no idea who my academic advisor even was. It wasn’t until early October that I received the email address of my advisor. I reached out to her, and thankfully she responded immediately and was very flexible with times that we could meet.
During the meeting, I had all my questions answered and found out the courses that I need to take in order to stay on track with core requirements. I was also encouraged to make plans of my schedules and send them to my advisor so that they could “okay” them. After the meeting, I felt confident in selecting my classes for the Spring semester and I was relieved that I didn’t have anything to worry about.
I didn’t realize, however, how lucky I was to have this experience.
After talking with my friends, I realized a lot of first-years had complaints about their academic advisors and still felt rather confused with registering for classes. Some advisors had such busy schedules that finding an appointment was nearly impossible, while others took weeks to respond and students had to follow up with them. Some never bothered to reach out to their students at all, which could be a major problem, especially if the student does not take initiative.
Although it is expected that students should be responsible and stay on top of registering for classes, this does not mean that one should be able to fall through the cracks of academic advising. Advisors should also prioritize taking the responsibility of making themselves known to students.
I was told one advisor didn’t even walk their student through the process of picking classes out at all and gave no advice to them in switching their major. Without good advising, students are left on their own to not only pick courses but also go through the process of switching a major, which is a completely new idea and could be confusing if never done before.
This is a stressful time for students, regardless of whether this is their first time registering or not. There is preparation for the holidays, mid-terms and endless hours of studying and homework on top of other responsibilities. Dealing with confusion and problems from their academic advisor should not be added to their list. Meeting with their academic advisor to work on their Spring schedule should be a stress-free activity, and one that brings a student more secureness and confidence than frustration or worry.
Although I have heard about positive experiences with academic advisors, like mine, Fairfield needs to make this experience the same for all students. Advisors should be reaching out to students more often and much sooner before the registration process. They should be over-seeing the students’ courses intensely and reaching out here and there in case the student has any questions or concerns.
By reaching out often, students are also less likely to miss an email and can stay in contact with their advisor. This could also create a bond between the student and the advisor so that the student does not feel awkward or uncomfortable reaching out when they need help, more so keeping them on track in their studies.
Academic advisors should also be more hands-on in describing the registration process. Although I met with my advisor on Zoom, I feel that it would be more helpful if all advisors met in person with their students so that they can be shown the class planning process and work through the student’s plans together.
Academic advisors should make it necessary that all students are confident and feel comfortable during this time of year. They should be checking in on students, especially first-years, and looking at their course plans because mistakes are common and should be expected. Getting into classes needed for your major is essential and can not be treated lightly.
No student should have to fall behind because of confusion with registering for classes or switching majors. If Fairfield wants to increase the already high graduation rate of 79.9 percent in four years, the University needs to assure that all academic advisors are helpful and stay on top of their students so that they can graduate on time and with their intended majors.