Advising Shouldn’t Be Mandatory

I went to my advising session last week with my Degree Progress Reprot in hand and the rest of my time at UWSP planned. I knew which classes I need to graduate and when I plan to take them. I spent less than five minutes in my adviser’s office.

Since freshman year, my advising sessions have gone similarly. I learned early on to read my DPR, and I mapped out my classes after declaring an English major. It was pretty simple and only took a bit of thought and time.

As UWSP administrators consider cutting the Student Academic Advising Center, which primarily helps undeclared majors, we need to also consider how the students who need these services will get help. It seems the responsibility to help these students will fall on professors.

According to a 2013-2014 report, the center helped 744 undeclared students during that academic year.

We’ve frequently talked about how packed professors schedules are, so I can’t imagine how adding another responsibility, especially of this magnitude, would impact their time.

Cuts are inevitable, and the center probably isn’t necessary at UWSP. However, if we cut a service so large, we need to consider changing advising to relieve professors taking on extra duties.

We need to make advising sessions optional campus-wide and encourage students to plan their own futures. Let’s also make DPR’s easier to read so that everyone can see exactly what classes they’ve completed and which they have to enroll in.

Some students will still need help, and at that point, they can ask their adviser. Many students, like me, would be grateful for the extra time they didn’t have to spend talking with their adviser about an already-planned schedule.


Grace Ebert

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  1. Susan Turgeson, Ed. D. , CFCS

    I am saddened to learn that your advising session have been simply a quick DPR check off. My advisees are typically in my office for about 20-30 minutes and we discuss so much more. It’s not just about degree completion but what else they can do to enhance their experience at UWSP and what they would like to do with their degrees. We spend a considerable amount of time talking about student organizations, professional development, and practicum placements. If advising was not mandatory, I wonder how many of the students would seek out these conversations on their own? Most UWSP students are bright enough to decipher a DPR. Advising should be so much more!

  2. I would argue that advising is meant for more than simply choosing a class schedule. It should be an opportunity to not only discuss educational goals, but also ensure that individuals can make the most out of the classes they choose. In addition, some majors are more difficult to navigate in terms of department requirements. In some cases, making a wrong class choice can add semesters, maybe even school years. In other cases individuals switching majors might make harmful choices simply because they lacked all of the needed information.
    I completely agree with you in terms of students needing to be able to plan their own futures; but to send the message that advising isn’t necessary, in my opinion is inaccurate. Advising is an opportunity for many of the skills that you yourself seem to possess to be further developed. Like you said, if faculty do not have time to educate their advisees, what will happen?

    Nice article, and I am happy to see the topic being discussed as it something near and dear to my heart!

  3. I agree that the advising “center probably isn’t necessary” for students who have a major and have figured out either on their own or with a departmental advisor the path to graduation, but then again, the SAAC office is not really intended for those students.

    As an English professor advising English majors I admit that many advising sessions sometimes take only 10 minutes and are usually concluded within 30 minutes, but when occasionally a student reaches a dead end in pursuit of an English major, I am not equipped to help them. First of all, I don ‘t have the time to spend repeated advising sessions exploring educational and career paths. But more importantly, I don’t have the expertise. Consequently, I refer them to Academic Advising and Career Services.

    I’m sure the majority of students at UWSP are as self-directed and indepedent as Ms. Ebert, but I doubt that most of them came in that way as freshmen; I bet many of them spent long hours with an advisor who helped them select an academic path.

    I really don’t know what we would do without advisors for undeclared students.

  4. As an academic advisor in the proposed-to-be-cut Student Academic Advising Center, I read with interest the opinion piece “Advising Shouldn’t Be Mandatory” in the April 10th edition of The Pointer. Ms. Ebert and I clearly have a different definition of advising. To many students, and sadly, many faculty advisors, advising is simply course selection based on a DPR. Professional advisors think of it as much more than that. We want to know how the student is doing in their current classes, because that affects their course selection for the upcoming semester; what minors or elective courses they’re considering that will complement their major/career goals or satisfy a curiosity; what out-of-classroom experiences they’re engaged in that help them practice the critical-thinking, problem-solving skills they’re learning in the classroom; what career fields they’re considering and what strategies they’re using to prepare themselves for those directions. And if they’re not considering any of the above, we feel it’s our responsibility to get them started thinking about those things.

    In the Student Academic Advising Center, we help students who are on a wide continuum of undecidedness. Some are totally clueless about what they want to study. Others are uncertain whether a four year degree is right for them. Others are experiencing high levels of anxiety because they’ve just discovered the major they originally declared is not what they thought it would be and they have no Plan B. Others are interested in 3-5 majors in 4 different colleges. Even if we “…consider changing advising to relieve professors taking on extra duties.”, I question whether faculty advisors have the patience and expertise to effectively advise and inspire undecided students whose interests are outside their own expertise.

    This is also an equity issue. Some UWSP students come to campus and find they can easily navigate the university environment. Others, however, struggle for various reasons. Some are the first in their families to attend college and can’t rely on their parents for answers to their questions; others are academically underprepared or are in “culture shock”. They often don’t know what help they need to overcome these challenges. This is why mandatory advising is so important. We owe it to these students to provide quality advising services that help them adjust to college life and make informed decisions about their major and career paths so that they graduate in a timely manner with as little debt as possible, which is much more than just course selection.

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