Each fall, BC undergrads are randomly issued a class registration time via their student Agora Portal. While this “pick time” is a big enough issue and causes students ample stress in and of itself, I am here to talk about the fine print. Before a student’s class registration time, they are asked to “please make an appointment” with their academic advisor “well in advance” of their pick time.
After declaring a major, students are assigned a major advisor—a person who is supposed to be the “best source” of information about a particular area of study. Students expect to be able to go to their advisor, ask them questions and get thoughtful, and above all, accurate answers. Students expect their advisors to be in the know about their particular major and willing to engage with them. Students expect their advisors to be helpful.
Unfortunately, more often than not, these expectations are not met, and students walk away from their advising appointments dissatisfied.
Over the past month or so, I have heard several stories of inadequate advisors. I have heard stories about students that set up a meeting only to have their advisor hand them their degree audit and stare blankly at them. I have heard stories of students feeling unwelcome and as if their appointment was wasting their advisor’s time. I have heard stories about students asking their major-specific advisor questions about an Econometrics Method class, and their advisor responding, “is that even an Economics major requirement?”
These situations are not the product of interacting with the as-advertised knowledgeable faculty; they illustrate that students would be better off without an advisor at all--at least they would save 25 minutes of their time. At least, if BC were advisor-less, students would be aware from the get-go of what they have to take on without being deceived by the promise of a person to help them along the way. What is the point of having an advisor and requiring an appointment with them if they consistently fail to fulfill what is arguably their only purpose?
Aside from advisors and their individual inadequacies, there exists a structural flaw in the advising system: double-majors are assigned to only one advisor, leaving them lost with regard to their second major. Double-majors should be treated as such by being assigned a person to advise them in each field of study. If a student cares about a subject enough that they spend 35+ of their academic credits on it, the school should have the decency to assign them a guide to help them along the way. A major-specific advisor should be awarded to each person completing a given major—even if that means they are assigned multiple advisors.
On their page of the Boston College website, the Academic Advising Center debunks three common myths about academic advisors. These myths are as follows: (1) my advisor will have all the answers, (2) my advisor will tell me what courses to take and (3) my advisor is my buddy. To be clear, I am not suggesting that advisors should know everything about your major in minute detail, that they should lay out your entire four years’ worth of courses for you or that you should be going to get drinks with them after your meeting. What I am suggesting is that students should be able to receive informed answers about questions, that their advisor should help them formulate a course plan and that they should be engaging and responsive. Advisors should be able to start a conversation about the student’s plans, should help a student navigate their major and make informed choices, should not assume that the only reason a person came to their advising appointment was to get their registration code and, above all, should be able to do what they are designed to—advise.