Academic advisers provide ranging usefulness to students

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As course registration approaches, some students continue to find it a daunting process. Many will turn to their academic advisers for aid and guidance.

Each of Lehigh’s three colleges handle academic advising differently. Undeclared business students have a staff adviser. When students declare their major, they are assigned a faculty adviser. Engineering students are provided a formal adviser from the very beginning, even though first-year students generally take the same courses. The students in the College of Arts and Sciences are generally assigned an adviser to help them with their schedule until they declare a major. Once they do, a professor from their respective department becomes their adviser.

Susan Ellis, the program director of the Academic Advising Center, provided insight into common concerns that first-year students have. She explained students have ideal schedules in mind, but struggle to actually build them. Additionally, some may be considering a major and want to start fulfilling requirements while keeping the door open to other possibilities.  

“The new Academic Advising Center in the College of Arts and Sciences has offered a number of programs for first-year students to help alleviate some of these concerns,” Ellis said. “We have provided students with tips for registration and advice on making the most of the advising process. Our hope is that with more information about course selection and the registration process, students will be more prepared and less anxious.”

Jennifer Swann, the director of Student Success, said she was surprised by the popularity of 5×10 events – a programming series for first-year students – about registration.

“We had a couple of 5x10s that we offered for students and we were surprised by the number that showed up,” Swann said. “My first response is that first-years just don’t know how to register. Taken from the 5x10s, they just didn’t know how to get started. I will say that there is a website, if you type in registration, that has beautiful frequently asked questions on it. So it’s not that Lehigh hasn’t put the information out, it’s just not well known that that information is there.”

Ellis said first-year advisers in the College of Arts and Sciences should now be incredibly accessible.

“This year, the (College of Arts and Sciences) recruited approximately 30 mentor advisers and these faculty advisers were each assigned about 20 advisees,” Ellis said. “The mentor advisers met with all of their advisees either on the Friday of orientation or during the first week of classes, and they continue to reach out to their students throughout the semester.”  

Student satisfaction with non-major advising has remained around 70 percent for the past five years. According to Ellis, College of Arts and Science first-years reported a 95 percent satisfaction rate since the implementation of this new program.

Both Ellis and Swann want first-year students to make the most of their advisers. Swann said they had few students who needed help getting into courses. She considers this a good indicator that advisers are doing an excellent job. 

(Emily Okrepkie/Made with Canva)

(Emily Okrepkie/Made with Canva)

Marissa Flores, ‘16, a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, reflected on her experience with registration and advisers. She said she doesn’t think an adviser has ever explained registration to her. Flores said she has consulted her advisers for academic assistance, but has usually built her schedule on her own by the time registration rolls around.

“I feel that they truly care for my success and talk to me about ways I can achieve it,” Flores said. “I think I might be lucky, though, as I’ve heard other advisers are not as helpful.”

Katie Howlin, ’16, is an international relations major who has experienced difficulties meeting with her adviser.

“My adviser has just been generally unhelpful and unfriendly all four years that I’ve had him,” Howlin said. She said this past semester, her adviser only offered limited times to meet and they all conflicted with her class times.

“It was getting closer and closer to registration and he was not giving me any solutions,” Howlin said.

Howlin was unable to meet with her adviser and ended up getting her alternate PIN — a code students need from their adviser in order to access registration — from the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Shane Wolfe, ‘17, is a student in the engineering college. He said he was clueless about registration as a first-year student and his adviser taught him the process. Now, Wolfe does research about his upcoming classes before meeting with his adviser. 

“We have a good rapport that allows us to build my schedule together,” Wolfe said. “I do believe that if I were not as well prepared when I first meet him he would be completely capable and happy to help me build a schedule from the ground up.”  

Registration for the spring 2016 semester begins by class level, starting on Nov. 12 with graduate students. Class level is determined by the number of completed credits at the time of registration.

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