Yes, it’s that time of the semester–the time when you keep your eyes glued to your laptop screen during an early morning lecture until the exact moment when you can submit that list of courses you compiled frantically the night before and enroll for next semester. However, I’ve been sorely tempted to blow a fuse much shorter than that introductory sentence. After a somewhat tumultuous enrollment period this week and in semesters past, I’ve concluded that UConn’s student advising services are simply inadequate; therefore, I’d advise them to make drastic changes before they run into irreversible predicaments.
For starters, many advisors’ priorities are rather misplaced. This past Sunday, my dad and stepmom took me out to lunch and asked about my post-graduation plans; after all, I’ll be walking down that stage in my cap and gown in May 2020 (barring some tragic accident or last-minute flunk-out, of course). Coming off a weeklong academic break, I wasn’t quite up to answering such an open-ended question (honestly, all I really thought was, “Wow, this is the last time I’ll get to eat real food for the next couple months,” and, “Ugh, I’m so exhausted from all the nothing I did over break!”). Although I hardly even know how I’ll survive this semester, let alone prepare for my long-term future, nevertheless I respectfully addressed my dad and stepmom’s inquiry. I said the typical things (“Oh, I’ll go to grad school,” “I’ll start applying to schools next semester,” etc.), but I struggled to articulate any explicit, definitive plans for my post-undergraduate career.
I believe this is largely because instead of scheduling individualized meetings to discuss important matters such as applying to graduate school, bolstering your resume or preparing for a job interview, our advisors seem content to wait until we express a need for assistance before scheduling one-on-one appointments (at which point their schedules probably are fully booked already); or to make mandatory for us those hour-long group advising sessions that present only the most basic information that anyone can find with the slightest bit of effort. I understand that our large campus makes it difficult to accommodate everyone’s needs, but we shouldn’t be wasting our already-limited time and money on useless interventions. And sure, we students must act independently to some extent, but many of us often still are too stubborn to ask for help when we truly should.
Once we finally step into proper meetings with our advisors, we quickly realize that they’re still not being too helpful. On one end of the spectrum, you may have a much clearer idea of your academic requirements and desired courses than your advisor, who supposedly keeps track of your records and interests. Other advisors may better anticipate your arrival, yet unintentionally sabotage you at every turn (e.g. they’ll wait until the last minute to inform you that you still haven’t fulfilled certain requirements, or they’ll neglect to direct you toward worthwhile scholarship and internship opportunities before applications are due). We’re trying to present ourselves as mature, responsible adults, but it doesn’t help our cause when we must tolerate incompetence or scramble frantically to fix any major oversights.
Of course, class enrollment itself can be nightmarish, too. Between outdated course catalogs and plans of study, educational requirements and satisfactions that change seemingly on a whim, prerequisite courses that fill up within minutes and courses locked behind permission numbers, we too frequently get the short end of the stick. Even as a rising senior with around 100 credits and an early pick time this week, I had to make plenty of compromises and struggled to get into a couple of necessary classes. Advisors ought to provide us with up-to-date information prior to the opening of course registration, and UConn should hire more professors as opposed to restricting access to its most popular and critical courses.
The real tragedy in all this is that students may feel compelled to pursue other domains that don’t suit their skillsets or inspire their deepest passions–or even to drop out of UConn altogether. I’m not exactly qualified to budget a large university’s finances and responsibilities, but here’s a crazy idea: Instead of wasting precious time and money to build a new recreation center–which most students didn’t ask for and/or won’t use frequently enough to justify its exorbitant annual fee-–or to bolster one of the worst Division I college football programs nationwide (I’m mentally listening to Grease’s “Hopelessly Devoted to You” as I write this), we should pool our resources and apply our best efforts toward revamping our advising and mental health services–amenities that students actually need and desire.
Michael Katz is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email firstname.lastname@example.org.