Early Advising

Students stand in line at the Early Advising Pop-In to check in and speak with their adviser. Students were offered a bag of popcorn while they waited.

As students stress over their class schedule during the first week back, campus advisers and other mentors have to be ready to face an array of dilemmas.

Wanting to replace a class last minute or needing to rearrange a schedule could be reasons why students crowd the advising offices during the first week of the semester.

Catherine Nutter, senior director of Tech University Advising, said she has worked as an adviser at Tech since April 2010. University Advising, which focuses on helping students who have not declared a major and provides pre-professional health advising, sometimes see students who want to change their schedule during the first week of classes.

“We see a pretty good number of students who need to add a class or want to change their schedule around,” Nutter said.

Regarding students she has advised, Nutter said students have asked for the quickest ways to graduate, needed to find an additional course for their major or have tried to get back into a class that filled up after having dropped it.

Needing to add more hours is another reason Nutter said students want to change their schedule after classes start. With spring orientation being hosted close to the first day of classes, she said one should consider how a majority of classes one is looking for during the first week of school may not be available.

Regardless, there are ways one could make his or her advising appointment run smoothly.

“I think anytime a student wants to talk with their academic adviser, be prepared with the questions, know exactly what it is they’re asking or wanting to do,” Nutter said, “and be willing to listen.”

During the first week of classes, the student’s preferred solution is not always available, Nutter said. One needs to be open-minded to other possibilities and courses.

“I also encourage, before a student drops any class, to consult with an adviser,” she said.

Most scheduling issues are avoidable if students take time to understand and ask about the availability of certain courses, Nutter said.

Whether it be figuring out who to reach out to or the worries that arise from not having the best schedule, students in need of academic advising may face different amounts of stress.

Donna Burt, senior academic adviser at the Tech College of Human Sciences, said she has been advising Tech students for over 16 years. From freshman to seniors, she said she has multiple experiences in advising and dealing with stressed students.

“I’ve seen this cycle of stress many times over,” she said.

Knowing how to interpret certain information, such as error messages when trying to register for a course that needs a prerequisite and campus holds and restrictions, can be confusing and result in stress, Burt said.

Taking advantage of advising appointments and learning information, such as the last date to add a class being Jan. 21, can help ease some worries, Burt said.

“You have some sort of action that happens in your life, and you have an emotional response,” she said, “and the students bring an emotional response of feeling of, ‘I’ve got to get this done.’ It’s an emergency from their part.”

From the advisers’ perspectives, Burt said the advisers are used to these emergencies and know how to handle them without concern.

“Hopefully, they’ve been doing it long enough or have the support from other advisers in their office to be able to help overcome a lot of those obstacles,” Burt said.

There are some factors when adding or dropping a class some students may not think about when they are stressed about their schedule.

Getting another perspective on an action, especially when it involves one’s class schedule, can be beneficial, Nutter said. One may not be aware that a schedule change could impact one’s full-time status, which could hinder receiving financial aid and certain scholarships.

“A lot of that is perspective and knowing information,” she said. “So, I encourage students when they think there is a situation or they’re concerned there could be a situation, take a deep breath, email your adviser or if your adviser has walk-in time, go see your academic adviser and look for the solution.”

Most of the stress regarding class selection comes from the unknown, Nutter said.

Even if a student knows the issues they want to tackle, some may still need advice on who to consult.

Joshua Sills, program director of the Success Takes Practice program in the Tech Student Success and Retention Initiative department, said the department has peer-success coaches and life coaches that guide students to appropriate resources. Even though the department does not have any academic advising services, he said the staff will still help students prepare for advising.

“We absolutely do help students prepare for advising,” he said. “We help them think about what are the kinds of questions you need to have for your adviser.”

Using DegreeWorks and figuring out where issues arise are good steps to take before an advising appointment, Sills said.

“They need to know where they are in their degree plan,” he said.

Knowing one’s completed and required credits, are more information students need to know, Sills said. One also not assume an adviser can fix everything.

“Some advisers are meeting with up to 500, 600 students,” Sills said. “When it comes to really preparing for advising, the student needs to take the time to understand what their situation is as a student when it comes to their academic progress.”

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