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MINK: Waiting for an advising revolution

The University has much more to do before it can be satisfied with its advising system

One of the foremost concerns of University students is a lack of access to academic and career advising. Though it’s not the most noticeable aspect of University life, advising plays an important role in shaping a student’s experience at the University, as advisors guide students towards their areas of interest and ensure students understand the requirements and prerequisites involved in their fields. With thousands of classes in hundreds of departments available, the sheer volume of options can be overwhelming. To help guide these students, the University should expand and publicize its online resources and peer advising programs, which would give students access to a wealth of information and advice to guide them through their time here.

Advising provides benefits that play out in small but subtle ways over the course of a student’s career, but this subtlety does not diminish its importance. Studies have shown better advising helps students finish their degrees on time and that it plays a large role in the retention rate of students. Poor advising can leave students jumping between majors, accumulating hours of unnecessary and unwanted credit hours as they try to forge a path on their own. Professors who are forced to take on advisees may not have the time or the inclination to provide them with all the advice and oversight they need. They may share only a few common areas of interest with which to build a meaningful relationship. This results in students spending their valuable time with professors painfully synthesizing a schedule to fulfill their credit requirements instead of on consequential career advice and guidance.

The University administration has responded to student dissatisfaction over the current advising structure with its total advising plan, which aims to synthesize the various advising resources available to University students on the second floor of Clemons. This move is a welcome relief and a much-needed step towards providing an effective and comprehensive advising system for the student body. In my experience, current advising resources are little understood or utilized by the student body, making them inefficient at fulfilling their function.

However, adding space for advising does not change the fact that advisors will continue to spend a significant amount of their time directing students to information and resources already available. This time drain will make it impossible to provide every student with the time they need. The University can increase its advising capacity by expanding and improving on peer advising organizations such as ULink. While student advisors may not have the long career experiences of professors, University-specific experiences makes fellow students more attuned to the concerns of their peers. This program also fosters connections among students with similar interests and majors.

The University should also complement the physical expansion of advising with an online synthesis of advising resources and major’s requirements and information. We can look to the successes at other institutions for ideas about worthwhile strategies to put in our system. For example, Arizona State University recently introduced a website that synthesizes information on degree requirements and classes, providing students with a one-stop shop to compare the different majors and plan their schedules without the need to consult an advisor. A similar program at the University would relieve the strain on an overburdened system and save huge amounts of time for professors and students.

Using an online system wouldn’t eliminate the need for personal advisors, nor would it allow peer advisors to replace the knowledge provided by professors. However, using these programs makes it simpler for students to find information and ensures the limited time a professor has available for advising is spent passing on their accumulated knowledge and giving substantial, personalized advice to students who need it most.

Alex Mink is an Opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at a.mink@cavalierdaily.com.

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