I’m lucky. For some deranged reason, since the sprightly age of 7, I have known what I want to do with my life: become a writer. Fast-forward 11 years and that same interest motivated me to apply to GW’s journalism program in the School of Media and Public Affairs. When I was accepted into the program and decided to attend GW, I felt confident in the $180,000 investment I was about to make.
Few college students, however, know their calling in life while still playing “Duck Duck Goose.” In failing to decide on a basic career interest at the age of 7 or 17, incoming GW students with undecided majors naively walk into a big waste of time. Namely, the Admissions department, the University Bulletin and lackluster academic advising contribute to confounding students in their quest for an academic calling.
The deception begins before students even arrive at GW. In the application given to high school seniors, there is a prompt to choose one of six different schools at GW using nothing but a check mark. Earlier in the application there are pages and pages about scholarships, special programs and deadlines; there is no breakdown of the individual institutions.
It is naive of the University to believe that a senior in high school applying to more than 10 schools will understand the academic caveats of each institution. Surprise attacks include the competitive GPA requirements for the communications major, the standards necessary to get into the School of Media and Public Affairs, the Elliott School and the School of Business, and the inability to double major between certain schools. Together, these various requirements make many students question paying tuition to a university when they cannot study what they want. While some might say the applicant is responsible to do the research to make a decision as to which school is best for them, it is also the University’s responsibility to list the GPA standards and the general requirements for each institution within the actual application for admission.
The University Bulletin causes further confusion among students over how to successfully traverse their academic experience. While the University does announce that not all courses listed in the bulletin are what will appear on GWeb, there needs to be greater correlation between the two entities. When courses are listed in the bulletin that rarely make an appearance in the classroom, or required courses have wait- lists, it complicates students’ four-year academic plan. The University Bulletin should be a guidebook. Unfortunately, it is often a false representation of the academic landscape upon which students are supposed to build their future.
All of the above comes to a head in one 24-square-foot cubicle of some wayward professor who is arbitrarily handed a list of students’ names each year and told to “advise” them. Not only is it frustrating how the adviser passively waits until students are alerted by some insipid version of a post it note on the GWeb homepage to follow a paper trail into their office, but advisers are often rotated, making their relationship with students rather weak. In my time at GW, I’ve already had three different advisers. Except for one, their advice has not been as readily available as their signature. While some might argue that college students should not have their hands held by the adviser, the fact that most students do not receive one until they choose their major reduces the clarity about who is really keeping track of you at GW.
The difficulties students face in not being able to change majors or transfer within schools at their whim can be lessened by honestly telling more high school students to attend community college for two years while they figure out what they want to study. Another less harsh option is for the Admissions office to rewrite the freshman and transfer applications to list more specific information and effectively market the individual schools so students really know what to expect.
Once a freshman enters GW, they should be given a four-year adviser that is well-educated in all facets of University life. In order to accomplish this, the University should hire separate faculty to deal with advising in each school, so that professors do not have to divide their time between advising, teaching and professional careers.
At least for me, I was lucky enough to figure out what I wanted to do by the time I learned to tie my shoes. For the rest of you, however, studying at GW under these circumstances could seem like big waste of money and time, but mostly your energy.
-The writer, a junior majoring in
journalism, is a Hatchet columnist.