This is a revised post that is still applicable. It’s that time of year when most college students are thinking about the next year’s classes. This is a slow teaching time for most regular faculty (note this doesn’t include the sessional instructors, who usually have to teach full-time in order to stay afloat). One of the things that we forget though, is that this time of year is very busy for advisors and others who help students figure out courses and other important matter that is important to student success.
This quick note is a reminder for patience. Patience for the frantic student who needs a little reassurance about classes. For instance, I am finding that I am fielding more emails where a student really wants advice. “Which classes should I take?” A few have actually said, I want to know your recommendations. This is a big responsibility for me. Typically the student who asks, has already taken a course with me. So, I need to think about his/her interests and weigh my knowledge of the department’s courses. At first I would suggest all our courses, but now I am more careful. This is not based on content, but rather thinking more strategically about the student and her/his interests and possible grad school interests.
One common response from students is that they have heard that a colleague is a GPA buster. I always smile at this and explain that if the student wants to focus on Area A, for instance, in grad school that she absolutely needs to have a class with said colleague. The majority of the students come back to my office the next term and thank me for my suggestion. The other thing is that most students will do better in a course that interests them. I usually do not feel that this is a good excuse to not take a course. Also, our sub-fields are small and prospective grad schools and or entrance committees get used to seeing the same names and marks and they might understand that Prof. X is a tough marker.
I think that when I am queried–it is acceptable for me to make course suggestions to students. I am one of two undergraduate advisors in the department. About one month left until school resumes and I can honestly say that I’m ready to teach. But, that pesky need of having the syllabi done–not completed! Eeeps, yes, those syllabi will not write themselves.