Ill-advised and falling behind Students feel their academic advisers are failing them

Ill-advised and falling behind Students feel their academic advisers are failing them

After waiting weeks to finally get an appointment with her academic adviser, Lexi Wright left her 30-minute session feeling as if nothing was even accomplished. When it comes to advising at Chapman, the senior strategic corporate communications major feels the system as a whole has dropped the ball.

“I’ve truly had it up to here with the academic advising here,” Wright said. “I needed help figuring out how many more credits I needed and how the rest of my senior year would play out, and she just referred me to a bunch of different people rather than doing her job.”

Wright was under the assumption that her academic adviser would aid her in making the most out of her academic career at Chapman. However, Wright describes her appointment as a waste of time and says she felt more confused afterward than she did going into it.

“I have so many unanswered questions still,” Wright said. “I waited a month to get 30 minutes of this woman’s time, and she left me confused and stressed out and so concerned about graduating on time.”

Lexi Wright is frustrated with Chapman’s academic advising system. Photo by Greta Nagy

An anonymous academic adviser at Chapman declined to comment on the situation, claiming they were not allowed to answer any questions. The director of academic advising, Roberto Coronel, discouraged his advisers from speaking to the media after a previous story was published.

“A student interviewed the academic advisers about flaws in the system and our goals for the future,” the adviser said. “From that point forward all questions must go through the director first.”

However, Coronel, the only one authorized to comment, refused to. After three in-person inquiries and two emails, he finally responded, by saying he couldn’t.

“Thank you for your email,” Coronel wrote. “Unfortunately, I am extremely busy at this time and will not be able to answer your questions.”

The academic advising center strives to offer many different services to meet the academic needs of students, said the anonymous adviser. They are responsible for helping students with general education requirements, degree guidance and any academic policies.

“There is always room for improvements and obviously we try to accommodate each student as best we can,” the adviser said. “But I can’t answer these questions without approval from Roberto first.”

“The mission of the Academic Advising Center is to cultivate an educational partnership with students, guiding and supporting them toward the development and achievement of their academic goals,” according to Chapman’s website. However, senior biology major Danielle Remington fell short of hers. With hopes of graduating a semester early, she was not able to accomplish this and blames her academic adviser, in part.

“I asked my adviser so many questions about exactly how many courses I would need to take per semester in order to graduate early,” Remington said. “She basically told me to go back and look at my program evaluation.”

The evaluation had not been updated, so classes that were supposed to be offered in the fall semester of her senior year were not offered until the spring, making it impossible to graduate early.

College students are moderately satisfied with their academic advisers, but see room for improvement. Data from the National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report.

“I just wish that my adviser could have taken the time to let me know this instead of just telling me to go check it out for myself,” Remington said. “I don’t think that is fair that I was misled by someone that should have had all the answers.”

There are critical areas that need to be emphasized in any institution’s academic advising center, said Dr. Jennifer Joslin, associate director of The National Academic Advising Association. Joslin is concerned with the impact of academic advising on students who heavily rely on it.

“International students and students from different economic groups tend to be the most critical candidates who might need more guidance,” Joslin said. “Advising should have a solid impact on student-decision making.”

Academic advisers must believe in their students, and if a student’s grades are on the line or they are having trouble graduating for another reason, their academic adviser should be there to help them, according to Joslin.

“Advisers should support students and help them find passions,” Joslin said. “Students should build relationships through listening and talking to their advisers about their academic career.”

Coming to Chapman undeclared, Hayley Wierwille was also looking to find her passion. When she decided she wanted to apply to the public relations and advertising major as a second-semester sophomore, her academic adviser told her not to.

“I thought, ‘Who better to guide me into making this switch than my academic adviser’ but I guess I was wrong,” Wierwille said. “She told me that unless I took another semester at Chapman I wouldn’t be able to finish the major on time.”

She ended up declaring the major anyway, but said the adviser did not give her any suggestions to make it work. She found out she could take summer classes and add an interterm to stay on track.

Hayley Wierwille is now on track to graduate on time, but does not credit that feat to her academic adviser. Photo courtesy of Hayley Wierwille

“My roommate told me about how she took online summer classes and I registered,” Wierwille said. “I also realized that my academic adviser hadn’t even told me that interterm could be an option, but now I’m on track to graduate on time.”

Another undeclared student had a similar experience, sophomore Julia Paul, had a similar experience. Hoping to major in screenwriting, Paul met with her academic adviser after waiting two weeks to get an appointment.

“I wanted to know if it would be possible for me to graduate on time if I hadn’t started any of the classes for screenwriting. I have only barely finished my general education requirements, and screenwriting is a bigger major,” Paul said.

Paul was disappointed by the guidance her academic adviser gave her. She said the adviser was only helpful in telling her how many credits the major had.

“I could have looked up the amount of credits on my program evaluation and this still wouldn’t have answered my question,” Paul said. “I also had to wait two weeks to meet with her and I just don’t understand why I couldn’t have sent her a quick email about such a simple question.”

Academic advisers’ connections with their students are essential, as they’re to provide structure to academic careers that are blemished, according to an article written by Susan Campbell, from the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Arizona State University’s Amy Sannes explains why she loves this part of her job.

“I enjoy making students feel academically comfortable within their university, and I like to give them the tools to accomplish what they are aspiring to do within the next four years,” Sannes said.

Sannes asks her students questions and helps them meet their requirements. The adviser is honest with her students but makes sure they leave feeling reassured.

Nearly 60 percent of academic advisers have above a bachelor’s degree, but most are new to the profession, presenting a qualified but inexperienced field. Data from Penn State’s academic advising journal “The Mentor.”

“I would never want a student to leave feeling as if I just directed them to their course guides and then sent them on their way,” Sannes said. “I talk to my students and care about their passions and the concerns they may have for their academic futures.”

With Chapman’s counselors unable to comment, it is unclear whether they feel the same way about the nature of their impact on students, some who would describe it as rather negative.


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