Opinion: Freshman Academic Advising - BC's Weakest Link

Freshman orientation: a three-day ordeal culminating with the much-anticipated and feared scheduling session, during which each freshman is expected to pick their fall semester. We newbies had all gotten the requisite packets and folders meant to help us weed through the multitude of classes offered, and I’m betting that most of us, myself included, tossed them into our orientation luggage and promptly forgot about them. But we shouldn’t have had to fear! That’s what orientation is all about right? We’ll be lead step-by-step through scheduling and will end up with a beautiful four-year track to follow, stress-free. Wrong.

I think that it’s important to mention that advising is a very individualized experience. It’s hard to make a complete analysis because each person’s experience depends on his or her specific advisor. However, I think most freshmen will agree with me when I say that there’s room for improvement. For one thing, the hour and a half session that us freshmen had with our surrogate orientation advisors was one of the most stressful things I have ever experienced. Not only do you have to pick what classes you actually want to take, you have to take into account the core requirements, and how that will play into your next four years here. For the undecided majors like myself, it’s a daunting task. While I found the actual advisor in the room to be intimidating and not overly knowledgeable about all the classes offered, the OLs (orientation leaders) present were a godsend. They gave each student the actual lowdown on which classes were impossible, which were fun and filled a requirement, and most importantly, how much was too much. No freshman wants to end up dying under a workload first semester, and the OLs gave candid advice that I found to be invaluable.

Students in some of the more specialized schools, such as CSOM, Lynch, and Nursing seem to have it a little easier because their requirements are more rigid. There are fewer options and therefore less need for advising. However, for the big block of A&S students, a little guidance would be nice. BC has every right to pride itself on the numerous, diverse courses it offers, but all those options, combined with the strict credit and core course regulations, is a recipe for a breakdown.

BC advisors need to be the people on campus who clearly understand the course and credit requirements; that much should be a given. Even more than that, they need to be approachable and present inthe lives of their students. That doesn’t mean you and your advisor need to be best friends who grab coffee and gossip on the weekends. It does mean, however, that every freshman should feel comfortable approaching their advisor with any questions or concerns they have. I personally feel lucky because, as a student in the honors program, my advisor is also my honors professor. I see her twice a week in a class with only twelve other students; therefore, I would feel comfortable meeting with her and speaking openly. I think I am the exception the rule. I wonder if most students even know what their advisor looks like.

At orientation, I remember, in the midst of my class-choosing panic, I was angry with myself. I thought, “I should’ve paid more attention to the packets I got over the summer, or I should’ve done more research about classes before just showing up.” But in reality, it was naïve of BC to expect all of its students to know how to or even want to tackle the extensive material on courses we received in the mail.  BC needs to assume that every single freshman is coming in without the slightest idea of what they want to do with their lives. That’s what college is for after all: figuring out your future. And if BC can’t provide the tools to make something as simple as choosing five classes for fall semester easy, then it’s not doing its job as an institution of higher education.

(south) jersey girl. incapable of whispering. happiest in big cities. still trying to make "swag" happen. very