University should institute adviser procedure, optimize student benefit

Jeff Kang | Staff Writer

College is an educational institution with a purpose to give students—both young and old—a chance to discover their strengths and further their interests in specific areas of study. Yet, not everyone can pay for college. It is a luxury that only those with financial stability, like our fortunate Washington University students, can afford. All Wash. U. students should strive to take advantage of various opportunities that the school’s major departments offer. Nevertheless, many graduate without making use of these opportunities because major departments do not always effectively advertise them.

Students often unintentionally overlook such valuable assets because they have never heard of them. Although most students have a clear understanding of major classes and requirements, only a few know about the various internships and undergraduate research opportunities that departments provide. Moreover, students may find it difficult to learn more about these opportunities because they do not know where to look and who to ask.

For instance, I had no clue that history majors can choose to do a Undergraduate Internship in History under a professor until the first semester of my junior year. Also, I still do not really understand what “History 4001” (Directed Fieldwork in Historical and Archival Professions) is and how it differs from the rest of the major’s Capstone Experiences.

While there are countless ways to tackle this issue, I believe that the problem can be largely solved by creating a systematized procedure for advisers to follow on notifying advisees of optional major opportunities.

When you declare a major, the major department assigns you to an adviser who you have to meet to finalize the declaring process. Also, you are required to contact and see your adviser at least once a semester for registration whether you want to or not. These meeting sessions could be a good chance for students to hear a general overview about major opportunities.

Moreover, while they are not your parents, most advisers care about their advisees and are willing to help them make the best out of their majors: My adviser was the one who offered me an Undergraduate Internship in History as the student writer for the department newsletter.

Some may oppose this proposal, arguing that students, as adults, have the responsibility to make their own decisions and build their own futures. While I wholeheartedly agree with this viewpoint, I still believe that many underclassmen do not know enough about their majors to ask the right questions and make use of all the available resources.

Others may claim that the relationship between an adviser and an advisee should not be so rigid. Although this is a reasonable perspective, the ability to build personal relationships varies between every human being. Naturally, some advisers will be more conversational, engaging and organized than others. I get along very well with my adviser and respect her as a history professor, yet it would be wrong for me to assume that all Wash. U. students feel the same way I do about their advisers.

I know that Wash. U.’s greatest strengths are its low student-to-professor ratio and its motto to actually care about the students. I chose to apply to Wash. U. because it gave me an impression that it tries very hard to make sure that students get the most out of their educations. While I am neither a department head nor an expert on school administration and policy, I believe that introducing a simple procedure for advisers to follow on sharing information with advisees could help students accomplish much more through their majors.

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