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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: UA advising system does nothing but stress out students

The UA offers over 300 different degrees through 20 colleges and 11 schools. From Africana studies to microbiology, students can mix and match degrees, but that doesn’t mean the path is easy.

In fact, students trying to double major or minor will often find that the range of different degrees causes headaches, especially when it comes to working with each department’s advisers.

Academic advisers are supposed to make students’ lives easier by helping them plan classes, figure out the best times to get an internship or study abroad and ensure students are steadily working toward completing their graduation requirements.

But when a student is double majoring and also has a minor, they have at least three different advisers. While each adviser is an expert in what the student’s class schedule needs to look like for a degree, there is often little interdepartmental communication or understanding.

Under this system, the individual advisers don’t know what the student needs for credit requirements outside of that degree. Therefore, they can’t properly advise students on what classes to take each semester or the best way to arrange their schedules.

This can lead to unnecessarily heavy workloads or forgotten requirements, which means more stress for already-overburdened students.

To add to the confusion, students in the UA Honors College also have an honors adviser to keep them on track in that program. That means a student could have four or more separate advisers.

Even scheduling all of those separate advising appointments is a source of stress in itself. It’s hard enough to carve out enough time to meet with one adviser, let alone four, before it’s time to sign up for classes. If each of those advisers offers conflicting information, who are students supposed to turn to?

There’s no adviser for dealing with advice and if there were, it would only make things more convoluted.

Though it does theoretically make sense for advisers to specialize by degree, this system often doesn’t work for students in more than one field of study. The solution might be to return to a method used in high schools around the country: Each student is alphabetically assigned an adviser who will guide them in every area during their college career.

Of course, in a school as large as the UA, that would require an army of advisers. It would be easy to dismiss that as impractical, but the UA already employs over 90 staff members with the title of academic adviser and many others with more specialized titles.

The Honors College, which assigns students one adviser, had 4,546 students in the 2014-2015 school year and only six people with the title of student success counselor and one with the title of academic adviser. That’s a small number of advisers for that many students, yet as an honors student, I have never had a problem contacting my adviser. I felt my time was specialized, even though my adviser could have roughly 750 other students to advise.

The student-specific method works in the Honors College, so it should operate just as well on a large scale.

While there are some advantages to having an adviser that specializes in a single degree program, those benefits are outweighed by the stress, mess and confusion that degree-specific advisers end up causing for multi-field students.

It’s time to reformat the way the UA handles advising.

Follow Marissa Heffernan on Twitter.

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