Academic advisors are doing their best but clearly need additional support
It’s not uncommon to hear students complain in the time leading up to or following academic advising appointments. Undertaking a college degree can be tedious and difficult; and while we are grateful just to have academic support through advising offices, it can be frustrating to enter and leave these meetings feeling the same way and knowing the same things.
Whether an appointment is scheduled to remove a registration hold or to get clarification about a major requirement, seemingly simple questions are often left unanswered. This is exemplified for appointments pertaining to the four groups of graduation requirements: university, general education, college and major. If students have questions about requirements in multiple groups, advisors often refer students elsewhere for answers to the questions that aren’t directly related to their department.
It would be helpful for major advisors to be comfortable discussing all graduation requirements and not refer students to other advisors for basic questions. Even with the new advising appointment system, which allows all appointments to be made from one site, it is notoriously difficult to find advising appointments during times students most want them, such as course registration.
Furthermore, information that doesn’t need to come from an advisor should be easily available online. Taking a 15-minute advising slot to ask why a course advertised to match a specific requirement is not showing up on My Degree is not a good use of either advisors’ or students’ time. Much of the information that students schedule advising appointments for could easily be consolidated onto one website — there is no reason for information on My Degree to contradict requirements detailed on a department’s website.
In fact, members of the Editorial Board have even been explicitly told at advising appointments that My Degree is inaccurate and not updated. Students trying to plan courses generally rely on information on major websites, the Online Advising Student Information System (OASIS) or My Degree, often finding information that doesn’t match up. At that point, an advising appointment would be helpful, but it may not be possible to get one. What should you trust more? The major’s website? My Degree? A friend who graduated with the same major?
In many advising appointments, advisors use the degree certification tool on OASIS to confirm that students have met graduation requirements; this should be a feature students can access too. We can request a degree audit for our most accurate degree status, but this should be available at all times.
To relieve some of the burden on advisors, we strongly encourage that the registrar consolidates information and takes the time to set some policies for how majors and departments must update their websites.
We understand that advisors may be overworked and certainly need more help to be able to more effectively support more students. While having an advising service at all has been linked to decreased freshman attrition, higher quality advising was found to be most effective at decreasing attrition.
This means that regardless of the quality, it is a service to UC Davis students that we have so many advisors. The next step is making sure that the advising they provide is high quality. Students should be able to go to advisors for simple questions if they want, but they shouldn’t need to. By cutting out the need for advisors to handle simple questions about requirements, students would need to make fewer advising appointments, could bring deeper questions to appointments and would benefit from advising even more.
Written by: The Editorial Board