Quality Over Quantity Needed in Student Guidance

Hannah Rozow is the student representative on the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. An undergraduate at Indiana University in Bloomington, she is pursuing a double major in journalism and political science with a minor in Spanish.

In an effort to increase college completion rates in Indiana, many institutions are now stressing the importance of academic planning by encouraging students to meet with their advisors regularly. But, students don’t need additional meetings; they need quality guidance.

Two years ago, when I sat down for my initial advising meeting at Indiana University, I took no time in explaining to the advisor my intended career path, specified major, and exhaustive list of courses I wished to take during freshman year. My advisor, however, was uninterested. She told me instead that college should be a time to explore my interests. She said I should expect to change my major two or three times and that graduating in four years is a thing of the past. Despite my preparedness, I left the meeting discouraged and enrolled in fewer courses than I had intended.

Unfortunately, this is not uncommon, and the ramifications of poor advising can be severe. Students that take too few or irrelevant courses during their freshman year immediately fall off pace for on-time graduation, potentially requiring them to enroll in additional semesters. Furthermore, freshmen that do not meet the required number of credit hours to become sophomores may be ineligible for federal Pell grants and institutional scholarships. These financial barriers can make an already costly college education unattainable for many students.

But, with effective advising, these situations can be avoided. The requirements of an undergraduate degree are often unclear to new and returning students; advisors should be there to provide appropriate guidance to facilitate, as opposed to hinder, academic progress. Before institutions begin to require additional advising meetings, they need to ensure that these meetings are indeed serving their purpose: student success.