The Internet makes for a great escape from conversing with strangers — from ordering pizza online to getting computer tech support. But there are certain conversations that are important enough to warrant face-to-face interaction — say, for instance, what a student should do after graduation. While UCSD provides convenient opportunities for walk-in and appointment advising, the best advice a student will usually get is, “It’s all on our website.”
It’s difficult to advise over 20,000 undergraduates on their classes and career options, but getting solid advice is such a crucial factor for students that UCSD should look to improve advising across all departments. Since one-on-one semesterly planning sessions are not as feasible as they are at smaller schools, such as Pepperdine University, it makes sense that UCSD would focus on making their pamphlets concise and their online sources exceptional. But to have counselors depend on the resources to speak for themselves is like if campus tour guides handed everyone in their group a map of campus and then told them to take a hike. The quality and extent of advising needs to improve for UCSD undergraduates to keep them on the right path.
At the mention of academic and career advising, many students are quick to voice their dissatisfaction. Though they mean well, academic advisors tend to give students vague directions on which classes to take and inconclusive advice on dropping courses. One Eleanor Roosevelt College student, for example, came out of a long-term planning meeting only to find later on that the counselor had failed to include five classes needed for graduation on her two-year plan. Had the student not noticed the error, she may have made decisions on classes and additional majors or minors that would have jeopardized on-time graduation.
Advice for career direction is also a bit vague, especially for those with majors that lead to a wide range of career paths. One communications major went into the Career Services Center as a sophomore looking for advice on potential internships and received a run-of-the-mill nudge to look on Port Triton — but the counselor failed to mention key information, like the existence of the Academic Internship Program. Basic opportunities like these should not require a student to actively seek them out if they take the initiative to meet with a counselor.
Another student, a junior psychology major, went to walk-in advising to ask about getting involved in research, but was told by the counselor to not do any research since the B.A. degree did not require it. It was only until the student talked with graduates with B.A.s in psychology that she learned that research labs are one of the best ways to gain experience and receive glowing letters of recommendation.
As a solution, many students have turned to joining groups, organizations or events on Facebook — anything that will surround them with people who are working toward similar goals. Many academic interests have organizations pertaining to them on campus, such as the Health and Medical Professions Preparation Program, Pre-Veterinary Student Association and pre-professional fraternities like Phi Alpha Delta — to name a few. More than meeting students with similar interests, these groups bring in guest speakers, help with test-prep, put on seminars to prepare students for the professional world and present other valuable opportunities. There are also organizations that are great at linking students to the general alumni population such as Greek Life, the UCSD Student Foundation and the UCSD Alumni Association. These groups provide opportunities to network and find guidance so that students don’t have to be a slave to Google and the FAQ sections on the UCSD website.
Yet, there are two problems with this. First, not everyone has the time for these organizations. The organizations can be selective, require a certain level of involvement or have events at inopportune times. Many even cost money — be it a $5 quarterly fee or up to $300 in dues. It would be a lot easier to set up an appointment with an advisor on a student’s own terms. Second, not every organization is created equally. Some areas of interest have far superior opportunities and resources in their clubs than others, likely due to both the specificity of the club and its leadership. Although there are other avenues for student guidance, it is still important to improve the advising on campus. Our academic and career advising may not be improving because the counselors lack sufficient feedback. Therefore, every student should be emailed a brief feedback survey after they attend an advising session. This could illuminate problems with advising on a large scale, rather than perpetuate the quiet dissatisfaction among students.
Otherwise, students should set aside the evening and cozy up to the UCSD website. It’s going to be a long night.