Falling through the cracks

How advising issues affect student success

Illustration by Sarah Rogers

Courtney Hollman struggled to create a balanced schedule with the adviser she was assigned to. After much frustration, the sophomore English education major began looking for a different adviser to give her the help she needed.

“I had to try to fix my schedule several times,” Hollman said. “Not only because I added a minor to my schedule, but because my English classes were very scattered, and I was taking four English classes in one semester and that was all I was taking.

Hollman believes it’s important for students to be aware of their four-year plans and meet with advisers to prevent attending college for more years than necessary and spending more money. Without a good four year plan, Holland said students could miss required classes, be less prepared for their future jobs and end up taking classes they don’t need.

Hollman’s own schedule has already thrown her off course in her second year at the university, causing her to alter her schedule many times.

“I’m still trying to set up an advising appointment because I’m not sure where I need to be,” Holland said. “I don’t think it’s the advisers’ fault, but I think it would be more beneficial if the student knew more about what they were doing to be more proactive.”

Hollman believes her past adviser didn’t understand what she needed in her schedule.

“I think that if we are scheduled with an adviser, they should know what classes we need to be taking and what direction you should be heading,” Hollman said. “If the person that’s advising you doesn’t know, then how are you going to know you’re taking the right classes for your major and actually be prepared for the future?”

Hollman said she has found another professor in her department to help her sort through the confusion of scheduling.

“I feel like you can’t do that on your own,” Holland said. “Going to college, there are so many classes and opportunities that you can take. I feel like if you aren’t told specifically, it’s not going to happen. You might take some that are required, but I feel like it makes it easier with an advisor because you will know for sure what classes you need. You won’t get to your last year and realize you have to take another class.”

Communications Department Adviser David Black said while he has not found scheduling an issue, he can understand how lack of communication between student and adviser could lead to problems.

“Sometimes responding to email is a challenge sometimes,” the assistant professor in radio and television said. “We all get a lot of emails, and the problem is they sometimes get lost in the inbox.”

Black said two main reasons for advisers is their assistance to help plan which courses a student needs to take along with finding what subject students should emphasize within their assigned major.

“In general it’s just a matter of finding the best way to make all that happen,” Black said. “From the span of a semester advising doesn’t take up that much time. I think you’re dealing with students in individual class situations more than anything else. Professors are expected to teach and to advise, but they are also expected to do their research in their creative work. There are a number of things we are required to do.”

Marissa Brown experienced difficulties scheduling appointments with her adviser to discuss the classes she would be taking in the spring semester.

The sophomore creative writing major struggled to find time to meet with her adviser last year as well, having to rely on freshmen advisers to help her sort through her course plan.

Brown said freshman adviser Renee Rowland was a big help is setting up her past schedules.

“(Rowland) helps you set your schedule up step by step, so you can do it on your own,” Brown said. “So, I can sign up for my own classes now because of her. Otherwise, I would be completely and totally helpless.”

Brown believes knowing how to schedule her own classes without an adviser helps her tremendously with time management.

“The problem with my adviser was I could never get a hold of them,” Brown said. “If you need an adviser to set up your next year’s schedule, then it can be really hard to set up an appointment that you can keep. They’re busy and you’re busy, plus things like classes and weather make it hard. If you have to have an adviser to set up your classes, then it might be next to impossible to get it done.”

Brown said she wished she had been taught to how to schedule her classes sooner, such as in her freshman UNIV class, but understands that advisers are an important part of the college experience.

“You’re assigned an adviser for a reason,” Brown said. “Mostly because they are overseeing the field you want to go into, and the more you talk to people who are in the field the more insider information you’ll get for your life. Without meeting with an adviser you don’t get all this useful information. You don’t get the help that you need and that’s how students fall through the cracks.”