Sunday, June 16, 2024

Opinion: Academic advising at the university is a system in need of change

OpinionOp-EdOpinion: Academic advising at the university is a system in need of change

ZOE HASSETT
Staff Reporter




College is a time to explore. Courses, internships and research opportunities all help students broaden their knowledge and identify their passions. Such exploration, however, can be daunting without guidance. 

Academic advisors play a crucial role in the academic, social and professional success of students. Yet, at many large universities, such as the University of Delaware, current advising policies fail to provide students with personalized and effective support.

Upon entering their first year at the university, all students are assigned an academic advisor. The expertise and accessibility of these advisors vary greatly. 

For instance, some students receive an advisor specific to their majors, while others, such as freshmen and sophomores in the College of Arts and Sciences, often receive an advisor with no expertise in their fields of interest. Additionally, students who are a part of selective academic programs, such as the Honors College, often have access to advising resources not available to other university students. 

Such disparities put certain students at a massive disadvantage. Though all students benefit from having a personalized mentor, the university currently provides ample resources to some students while failing to provide adequate advising resources to others. 

Those who do not feel connected to their advisors may be uncomfortable seeking advice, which is concerning since academic advisors may be the only form of support students have to help direct scholarly pursuits. Without at least one individual to go to for guidance, it is difficult to find success on a large college campus. 

Besides unequal access, the large student-to-advisor ratio also poses difficulties. Some advisors, especially those who work for large departments or colleges at the university, may be responsible for assisting hundreds of students. This makes it nearly impossible for advisors to form meaningful relationships or simply meet with their students once a semester to discuss future courses. 

Even for those students who take advantage of drop-in hours or scheduled appointments, meetings with advisors typically last a maximum of thirty minutes, making it difficult for students to raise complicated concerns or to receive meaningful direction. This can be extremely frustrating, especially during course selection periods when students are concerned about creating a schedule that helps them meet their academic goals. 

Because of the minimal personalization involved in the university advising system, students are made to feel like they need to follow a direct four-year plan throughout their college experience. 

There is little encouragement from advisors to pursue unique academic paths, often because they lack sufficient knowledge about students’ interests and aspirations. As a result, students may feel limited or insecure about setting ambitious academic goals. 

The constraints put on the current university advising system take away from the most essential role of an academic advisor: to act as a student’s mentor and advocate. 

Large universities can be an overwhelming environment for many, and without someone rooting for their academic success, students may fall behind or lose motivation while navigating opportunities. 

Inadequate academic advising can also negatively impact students’ emotional and mental well-being. Since academics are a major contributor to student’s stress, a lack of effective guidance can cause students struggling with their studies to feel isolated and hopeless. 

Despite the challenges related to current academic advising policies, there are a variety of changes that could lead to an improved system. For one, the university should allocate additional funding toward the expansion of academic advising programs. 

Since a student’s educational success on campus often begins with access to holistic guidance, providing sufficient advising resources should be the university’s top priority. By increasing the number of faculty members serving as academic advisors, students will have more opportunities to connect with mentors and receive personalized advice. 

Along with expanding the academic advising system, the university should also require students to meet one-on-one and in person with their advisors at least once a year. This will ensure that students establish at least some level of familiarity with their advisors so that if an academic issue arises, students have someone they can rely on for assistance. 

Every student deserves a mentor to stand in their corner during their academic journey. By improving current academic advising policies, the university has the potential to more positively impact each student’s college experience.

The opinions expressed by Zoe Hassett are her own and do not represent the majority opinion of The Review staff. She can be reached at zhassett@udel.edu.

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