College Advising

WP_002769My idea of advising is to take your own advice.  That is why I write most of things I write, not because people tell me to (or not), or because it will be popular, or because I want to be famous and liked, but because I take my own advice to.  That is why I write.  I enjoy doing things which will better society as a whole even if it will bring me down personally.  I want to tell you about College and Advising.  I will give you my advice, and then I will tell you not to take it.  I enjoy living dangerously.

I have learned this bit of knowledge after years of playing the advising game.  Having been in high school (La Crescent), community college (MCTC), and now college (The University of Minnesota), respectively, the latter two for the past 7 years, I am incredibly amazed at how poorly advising is facilitated for students throughout, and at a Big Ten University especially.  The knowledge I bestow is to seek out advice as much as you can, you pay for it.

Recently, I became a proud student of the University of Minnesota.  To my dismay the very school one would think to have the best advising has some of the worst.

Today, and for the past 3 months, I have dealt with this issue first hand.  And when I mean first hand I mean smiling while trying not to rip out my hair talking on the phone being transferred and becoming frustrated because it’s an everyday thing first hand.

This morning I received an email from a teacher.  This teacher teaches his class in a way that is moderately confusing, warrants auditing, and is below what I would consider University standards-in that it is inordinately paced.  It reminds me of No Child Left Behind.  However, he, the teacher, is cordial, very intelligent, and generally a nice guy with a good sense of humor.  I am not paying for the latter.  I am not at school to make friends.  I am at school to make grades and gain an understanding.  Whatever, it doesn’t matter.  It could be the best class ever.  I chose the class.  I am stuck with it now, as it is past the add/drop date.  I took someone else’s advice on taking that class (my advisor).  The point is I received an email and my next move was to speak to my advisor.  Fuck…

I must speak with my advisor!  NO!!!!

My advisor advised me to take this class, and another class (pre-calculus), which stands outside of my English major entirely.  I was taking pre-calculus and struggling.  Surprise!  The lecturer asked what my advisors advice was.  He said this class was way above my qualifications and not even essential to my major.  He asked this in a way that made me feel a bit uncomfortable about my advising situation.  I withdrew immediately, but after the add/drop date-of course.  I googled that advice because I couldn’t wait any longer for my advisors email.

A few days later my advisor emailed me back after I expressed to her how I was struggling, and she verified what I already knew.  She verified that I had completed what I would need for my math generals at MCTC.  This was fulfilled when I completed my transfer curriculum in 2012.  I asked her then, why would she suggest I take the math placement test and enroll in pre-calculus?  She had had time to study my situation before orientation, and she knew at orientation that I was going for my English major.  She responded with a default “out of the office” email.  This was a month ago today.

The second class, the class with the teacher and the email, suggested that I would most likely fail because I was surely “cheating”.  This conclusion comes after failing a Midterm while successfully completing a majority of the course work and producing a decent grade.  Apparently doing well on the homework and failing the test is “cheating” in the eyes of some.  Let’s not get bogged down with semantics though.  I just find it hard taking tests on material that is not presented well in class, or at all.  (When I ask for help in lab the TA’s stare at me and ask if I know what a 5 is.  I think I know what a 5 is.  I know where you can put a 5 too.  They are so very helpful.)  Also, as a small caveat to expand your mind, we were allowed 4 pages of notes on the Midterm.  I think the teacher had the benefit in this test taking situation.  If everyone fails the teacher fails, and the opposite is true.  At this point I am confused.  What would anyone do?  Anyone would contact their advisor.  So I did.  This was the interaction:

TS:          Hello, I need to speak to my advisor.

AO:        She is at a different office.

TS:          Can you transfer me?

AO:        Sure (happily), hold.  (5 minutes)

TS:          Hello, I need to speak to my advisor…

AO2:      Name, what is this call about?

TS:          I need to speak to my advisor about a class I am having a problem with.

AO2:      Well, it would be best for you come to our walk-in hours.

TS:          I have twice.  I waited for an hour each.  I couldn’t speak to my advisor.  They told me to call.  I don’t have time to wait.  I am in college.  I need to study.  I need to read.  Can I make an appointment?

AO2:      Who is your advisor?

TS:          Mrs. So and So.

AO2:      Well, your advisor has no more openings until December…

TS:          Okay, when?

AO2:      Actually, I don’t know, she doesn’t have her December schedule up yet…

TS:          Oh… Really?  … You are kidding me right? …

AO2:      No…  You know, I am sorry…  We are just busy…

TS:          -No, you are kidding me.  Is there any way you could give me the phone number or email of someone one above the people in your office?  I mean, I don’t think this is possible.  There is no way an advising office is run like this-this is a joke.  (I think about the Mickey Mouse Club)

AO2:      -Okay, wait…  I can get you in with another advisor.  It wouldn’t be your advisor though, but a different one.

TS:          Sure, I am free Thursday…

At this point I am not even sure if my advisor is a real person.  I have met with her only once, but after that nothing.  I am pretty sure she is a hologram posing as a U of M advisor.

You’d think after paying thousands of dollars to a company they would show you some form of customer service…

***

There was more to this exchange.  I had been to the CLA advising office twice before.  Empty house, both times, I mean the theater wasn’t packed.  I was notified by my advisor that she would be unavailable to help me for the next week.  This news coming after I had waited a week for her response to an inquiry about dropping these same courses.  The last drop date was coming soon.  I sent her an email in response only to receive a default message explaining how she would be out of the office for another week.  After a week, and a day, and after the add/drop date, she contacted me to let me know that I could “just do a walk-in and speak with someone.”  That easy!  Sure.  Rather not.  I suggested that we schedule an appointment.  She referred me to her receptionist.  I was a bit confused.  She couldn’t schedule it herself???  Upon doing a walk-in I was notified that my advisor was out.  I could take a seat or call another number.  I asked the receptionist if she could help me, or if anyone in the office could actually.  She promptly directed me to one stop (similar to Google for U of M students).

I called the number and was transferred a few times to a gentleman how actually did help me.  This man gave me insight on how things are run over here and there.  I was better off for taking his advice.  I figure if I have a problem in the future I will just Google it.

I feel at some point, at a large University, there should be an easy way to get a message across in order to receive the help needed from someone as integral to successful education as an advisor, and in a proper and helpful fashion.

Rather I Google the solution.  If you want answers obviate the line, the phone, the office, the speculation of thought from others, just Google it.  You’ll be better off and not spinning in circles.  Also, Google is free.

I do have an appointment on Thursday, I will be there, but for the time I have spent, wasted on searching for someone to voice my opinion to in search of help, I feel I could have better spent that time studying, or learning something new.  I have spent that time researching advisors, looking for answers to questions, and paying money.

I pay thousands of dollars in tuition. This tuition covers student services, course fees, and housing.  I would consider advising a keystone amenity offered to students if done properly.  I may have been misled.  This service, at an ivy-league college has left me in the dark, lost, and mostly confused at what to do.  At this time I find advising more of a puzzle than a resource.  Hey, but don’t take my advice on that.  Find out for yourself.

Advice:

Be an Artist.

Go for Art.

Don’t listen to Advisors.

DIY

And

Honey over Vinegar (usually never works).

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About Terry Scott Niebeling

Hello, My name is Terry Scott, a human being with flaws. twitter: @sirterryscott Buy my ebooks: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1/191-4788099-1818040?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=terry+scott+niebeling
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