Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 23:02
This spring, around course registration time, advisor evaluation forms will be sent out to students as part of a joint effort between UGBC and the administration. The forms will ask students questions about their advisor, giving them the opportunity to evaluate how helpful and knowledgeable advisors are and how effective the advising relationship is. The goal of the program, which has already been piloted in CSOM and CSON, is to determine which departments are succeeding in advising their students, and which departments need to make improvements. Academic advising is an area of student life that is often complained about, but it is not one that can be easily fixed. These evaluations, though undoubtedly a good thing, will not resolve all of the issues related to academic advising. They may, however, begin a conversation that can bring about significant positive change on campus.
Currently, students are assigned advisors pertaining to their specific major and are required to meet with that advisor before course registration time to obtain their access code. Students who are undecided, mostly freshmen, are assigned a random faculty advisor. It makes sense that students are required to meet with a faculty member before course registration, and this process should not be discontinued. Many students, if given the opportunity, would download their access code from Portal, not meet with any faculty members, and register for classes without any outside input, thus failing to verbalize their future goals, or at the very least their plans for the next semester. This would not be beneficial for students in either the short or the long run.
There are problems with the system, however. Many freshmen are given faculty advisors who do not pertain to their academic interests in any way, simply because they checked the undecided box. An option should be created that allows these students to select general areas in which they may be interested (for example, natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, fine arts, secondary education, etc.). By giving students the ability to narrow down their interests from every major offered at Boston College to a smaller subset of departments, they will more likely be paired with a faculty mentor better equipped to relate to their needs and provide quality advising. In many ways, it is these students who can benefit most from an advising relationship with a faculty member, and it is imperative that they get the best mentorship possible.
What is important to realize, however, is that much of the success of academic advising lies in the hands of the student, and thus the potential solutions that come from the administration are highly limited. Those students who take the initiative to build relationships with professors and seek out advice on career plans and class registrations are undoubtedly the students who get the best advising. Those students who meet with their advisor for two minutes, pick up their access code, and leave immediately clearly don’t get the same level of mentorship.
When it comes down to it, it is the responsibility of the student to seek out professors who will be able to provide them with good advice and a beneficial relationship. When advisors are assigned, the Academic Advising Center rarely knows the personality or specific academic interests of the student, and thus it is unreasonable to expect that each pairing is an ideal match. It is for this reason that the process of selecting a new advisor should be made much easier and the option be publicized more thoroughly. Many students keep their randomly assigned advisor for several years, without even knowing that it is possible to switch. Students who major in two different areas are often assigned an advisor in their secondary area of study, and again believe that they are stuck with that advisor permanently. By sending out emails to students before course registration time informing them that they can select a new advisor if they so choose, more students will be likely to switch, and academic advising as a whole will improve.
While there may be some logistical problems with every student selecting his or her advisor, the benefits far outweigh the cost. A cap could be established to prevent popular professors from being overwhelmed with advising requests, and professors with similar academic interests could share advising relationships.
Many students are not in classes small enough to foster a close relationship with a particular professor, and therefore aren’t comfortable asking to be an advisee. It is for these students that the random assignments by major exist. Students should always feel comfortable approaching faculty, however—after all, it’s part of their profession, and, for most of them, part of what they love doing. Students can get as much as they want out of their advising relationship, and it should be made as easy as possible for them to customize it however they choose. Many students don’t need more than a couple minutes with a professor and an access code. But many do, and for their sake, academic advising must be improved.