This is a re-imagining of a post from a year ago. I have updated and made appropriate changes.
It’s that time of year when most college students are thinking about the upcoming school year. From conversations in my office or via email, there are also positive ideas about how students will do things right this term. I applaud this. It’s great to come to the new semester or school year with an open mind and a good attitude. This is a slow teaching time for most regular faculty (note this doesn’t include the sessional instructors or adjuncts as they are called in the United States, 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 and I have to remind myself for this. I have a process that I know that I need to go through to find out more about the students’ record, but I have come to realize that so many students really want reassurance that they are doing things right. 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.
And, recently in my office hours, I told a student if you really feel that you don’t like an instructor and the course subject, drop the class. Numerous studies have demonstrated that a student is apt to do better in a class that she or he is more interested in and if the student’s transcript is questionable, I find that this is more accurate. Strong students will generally do well in most of their courses. For some students this is just more work and I’ve come to realize this.
However, I do think that students should push themselves and work outside of their comfort zones. 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.
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 this year. Students can trust that when they contact me (or the other advisor) they are going to get an honest answer. I know that some of the answers do not make them happy. Looking at the calendar I have exactly two weeks until I am back in the classroom. I’m excited, but want to enjoy these last few weeks. And, I hope that the students are, too.