College is hard to navigate. Students graduate high school and are suddenly forced to make major life decisions that will affect them for at least the next four years. At Loyola, decisions such as enrolling in classes and figuring out academic requirements get harder with the discombobulated, confusing and hard-to-follow advising system.
Some students have expressed frustration with the process of scheduling a visit with advisors and with advising sessions themselves.
For their first two years at Loyola, students can use first and second year advising as an academic resource. These early advising sessions are the foundation for the rest of their academic career at Loyola. Currently, there are 15 academic advisors listed on the first and second year advising faculty page on Loyola’s website. There are about 6,000 first and second year undergraduate students attending the university. That’s a 400 to 1 ratio of students to advisors.
This absurd ratio limits the attention students need and deserve when making these important, complicated decisions.
Yes, college is about building independence and becoming a more self-sufficient person, but that doesn’t mean students don’t need help along the way.
That attention can be vital to ensuring a student stays on track to graduate. Students have said they’ve enrolled in classes they’ve later learned aren’t necessary, pushing back four-year plans. The time and money put toward that class could’ve been spent on another that was actually needed.
Knowing which class will qualify for a tier-two literature requirement and which won’t isn’t always intuitive and LOCUS, Loyola’s system for handling academic and financial records, doesn’t tend to be the most user-friendly, so students need the reliable insight of advisors.
Advisors should be more than a resource for students to use. They should be on our side and work to make sure every student is successful in what they’re attempting to get done. Whether it be dropping a class or choosing a new major, the advisor should be available to help with every step of the process.
Instead, they’re met with difficulties and miscommunications with everything from scheduling appointments to the basic information gathered.
Even when we contacted advising officials for this editorial, we had to jump through countless hoops to get answers. When we did, Associate Director of First and Second Year Advising Joe Drake said one of the hurdles of advising is the influx of students at certain times of the year.
“A common challenge we face in academic advising — not just here at Loyola, but at most institutions — is that a critical mass of our students want to see us all at the same time: at the start of a semester, last date to withdraw, right before and in the midst of registration, etc,” Drake said.
Drake said advising implemented an online scheduling system to make it easier for students, but many are still not convinced.
“Initially it was hard to get the information I wanted from advisors,” said Charlie Brady, a junior creative advertising major. “They were very dismissive.”
When Brady claimed he asked his advisor which classes he needed to graduate, the advisor responded simply with “I don’t know, I just started.”
Advisors are supposed to be the ones who know what’s going on. That doesn’t mean they need to automatically know everything all the time, but an “I don’t know” should always be followed by “but I’m going to find out.” Students are constantly encouraged at orientation and via email to go to advisors with these questions because they’re the ones with the resources.
When junior David Lescano’s first advisor was replaced, he was left in the dark.
“I didn’t even get an email like, ‘Hey, I’m your advisor since so-and-so left, reach out to me if you need anything,’” the psychology major said.
Lescano said a more personalized approach could be part of the solution, starting with emails checking in instead of the automated beginning-of-semester mass emails.
That human approach could be exactly what’s needed to cut through the red tape that exists within the nitty-gritty side of scheduling. When advising works, it works well, like in the case of sophomore Claire O’Malley. The advertising and public relations major said she feels like her advisor is “on my team.”
O’Malley is working to graduate a full year early, which presents its own difficulties, but said she’s glad to have someone there to help.
“She’s even willing to override some rules about taking classes at other universities in order to get me to where I need to be,” she said. “It’s almost like she cares more about my goals than needing to do what might be protocol.”
The potential for this supportive, resourceful environment is there. Every student should feel like their advisor is on their side. No one should have to work around what’s considered protocol to be able to help a student with their needs. The system should be designed to help students — if that’s not the point of advising, then what is?