First-year advising adjusted for Class of 2016

As a part of an ongoing look at the first-year advising system at the College, the faculty approved a number of changes to the program at the faculty meeting on April 4. Faculty will now be matched to their advisees in May, well before students arrive at the College.

Additionally, the advising hold for first-year students during the drop-add period in September will be dropped starting in September 2012. Only the September hold for first-years is being removed; second-semester first-years and first-semester sophomores will still be required to meet with their advisors to remove an advising hold during the preregistration period. The major declaration hold for second-semester sophomores will also remain in place.

Having an advising hold for first-years in September is problematic because at that point, class registration is handled on a first come, first serve basis. For the second semester of the first year and both semesters sophomore year, students have a week to meet with advisors during preregistration, when time is not so much of the essence.

Despite the removal of the hold, first-years will still be required to meet with their faculty advisors upon their arrival on campus for First Days. “It was the feeling of the faculty that students and advisors would almost certainly still take part in the mandatory first advising meeting without the presence of the advising hold,” Dean Bolton said. “After all, lots of students go to that meeting now even if they aren’t planning to add or drop courses. [Therefore] the meetings with advisors will still be mandatory for both students and advisors.”

During a meeting in February, Bolton and a few other faculty members discussed the challenges concerning the timing of the current academic advising system in relationship to First Days. “In particular, the current system, in which first-year students register for classes in June without the assistance of advisors and then meet their advisors just before classes start in September with a ‘hold’ that prevents access to drop-add for fall term, has a number of limitations,” Bolton said.

There are several reasons for these changes to the advising program. To start, first-years do not usually get advice when choosing classes for the fall semester. By the time they meet with advisors in September, the bulk of their decisions regarding class choices have already been made.

Secondly, by the time students do get a chance to receive advice from their academic advisors, many classes are already closed, enrollment caps having already been met. Additionally, first-year students meet their advisors not only during already-hectic First Days, but also during the course of the first come, first served drop-add period. This regulation also led to students’ access to drop-add being limited by their advisors’ schedules and availability to meet, only adding to the stress of a student’s first experience with class registration.

“First-year students cannot make changes in their class schedules until they meet with advisors,” Bolton said. “As those meetings happen throughout the day on advising day, some students experience a significant delay in accessing [drop-add]. With many courses at their enrollment limits by that time, timing matters.”

Bolton also spoke to the hope that releasing advisor-advisee pairings earlier in the spring will allow faculty and first-year students to connect earlier in the class registration process. “Faculty are encouraged to be in contact with new advisees by phone, e-mail or Skype, or even in person if [the advisees] are local or passing through town, some time in the first two weeks of June,” she said. “This will allow for conversations as [students of] the Class of 2016 are preparing to select their fall courses, and it will also mean that the fall conversations will not be the first that faculty and advisees have.

“This is an experiment,” Bolton continued. “If there is a drop-off in participation or effectiveness, we’ll have to reconsider [the changes to academic advising].”

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