Students sometimes realize the importance of academic advising only when their academic plans take a turn for the worst. Just ask fifth-year GW student Emily Baier.
Baier plans to graduate this spring with a degree in American Studies. Her professors assign about 600 pages of reading each week as she is tries to cram two years of American Studies courses into each of her remaining semesters.
Up until the winter of 1999, Baier was planning to graduate in four years with a degree in communication. After completing all of the required courses for the major with a C or above in every class, Baier said she assumed she would have no problem declaring communication as her major.
One semester and two courses short of graduation, Baier found out her grades were not high enough to get a communication degree because of a few C’s she received in courses outside of her proposed major. She did not meet the required 2.7 GPA.
Baier realized that planning her academic future by herself added an extra year to her college career.
Baier’s advisor retired after her freshman year and she said she was never assigned a new one. Baier said she made it through the years of registration simply by visiting the Columbian School of Arts and Sciences walk-in advising program where, Baier said, they would look at your schedule, see that you had five classes, and sign.
CSAS assigns every freshman an advisor to meet with before they register for classes each semester. Once students declare a major, they choose an advisor in their field of study. But students who have not declared their major and do not meet with their assigned advisor can visit open advising sessions to remove the hold that prohibits them from registering for classes.
Baier said she accepts much of the responsibility for her situation, but thinks someone should have been looking out for her.
Sometimes faceless administration prepares you for the real world, Baier said. I know how easily people like me can slip through the cracks.
According the CSAS Web site, ultimately, students must assume responsibility for selecting courses wisely in order to satisfy degree requirements on schedule while adhering to School and University Policies.
CSAS advisor David Rowley said the best way for students to keep on top of academic planning is to take advantage of the resources available to them.
As with any system, it is only as good as the people in it, Rowley said about the CSAS advising program. I am willing to meet with students and discuss their issues, but if they do not take the initiative, it won’t happen.
The School of Business and Public Management handles advising differently than CSAS. Students meet mostly with walk-in advisors, which include teachers and business professionals.
SBPM advisors do more than sign course registration forms, said sophomore Ellen Safran, who has received advising from both schools. Safran plans to major in psychology in CSAS with a minor in business. She met with Business School advisor Greg Kapers last spring when she was thinking about making business her secondary field of study.
He was very helpful, Safran said. He sat down with me and outlined every course that I should take.
Safran said both advising programs have benefits.
Technically, in the business school, you can always walk up and talk to anyone, but I could always talk to my Columbian School advisor during her office hours, Safran said.Baier said she is happy with her new full-time advisors, who have been assigned to her this year. Baier said she knows now that it is unwise to leave anything to chance.
GW doesn’t hold your hand and nobody is going to do it for you, she said.