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Really awful course counseling for incoming freshmen. How common is this? Can you avoid it?


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My nephew recently had a really, really bad experience trying to schedule his first year at a college in FL.  The first phase was some sort of general meeting of a bunch of students with more general course counselors (which they said was not helpful), followed by what was supposed to be a meeting with the counselor for their major, but ended up being the actual scheduling on the computer of many students at once with the major's counselor in the room, floating between people. The first year math is supposed to be precalculus but the counselor kept telling them (the whole room) to sign up for college algebra, and when they asked about skipping precalculus (he placed above it) and taking calculus, he said that no one takes calculus their freshman year because it is too hard.  The counselor also had no idea about how they could schedule for courses for which he had already taken a prerequisite. Or any idea of how the AP or DE credits were going to be accounted for.  

In general it sounds like a horrible hot mess. So my question is, how common is this experience? Can we avoid this at all by calling ahead and scheduling special appointments to ask questions, or is that dependent on the university?  

Thanks hive.

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It's just one of the things you may want to look at in choosing a university. Different schools are better or worse at advising students. Different schools are better or worse at students being able to get the courses they want or need. If your student wants to be at a school where they rarely can't get their courses and they get lots of advising, then in the most general sense, small liberal arts schools usually excel at that but some mid-size privates and mid-size state schools are also really good at it. It really depends. Larger schools... can be a mess. But some do it better than others. And there are ways to compensate for it and get what you need anyway. Again... depends.

This is why students should read student reviews.

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27 minutes ago, Farrar said:

 

This is why students should read student reviews.

I guess they found out late in the game that UCF is mocked by students as "U Can't Finish" and they are starting to understand why. Other than just googling, what sites are good for student reviews?

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32 minutes ago, cintinative said:

My nephew recently had a really, really bad experience trying to schedule his first year at a college in FL.  The first phase was some sort of general meeting of a bunch of students with more general course counselors (which they said was not helpful), followed by what was supposed to be a meeting with the counselor for their major, but ended up being the actual scheduling on the computer of many students at once with the major's counselor in the room, floating between people. The first year math is supposed to be precalculus but the counselor kept telling them (the whole room) to sign up for college algebra, and when they asked about skipping precalculus (he placed above it) and taking calculus, he said that no one takes calculus their freshman year because it is too hard.  The counselor also had no idea about how they could schedule for courses for which he had already taken a prerequisite. Or any idea of how the AP or DE credits were going to be accounted for.  

In general it sounds like a horrible hot mess. So my question is, how common is this experience? Can we avoid this at all by calling ahead and scheduling special appointments to ask questions, or is that dependent on the university?  

Thanks hive.

My kids' universities were/are absolutely awful with advising.  And all of my kids were promised special advising due to them being in the honors program but it didn't happen.  It can be very costly if your student doesn't graduate on time due to poor advising.  My kids were really organized and on top of what they needed to graduate except for my one on the spectrum and I was definitely his adviser during his time in college.  He did all the coursework, I planned his schedule and courses each semester and had him contact his advisor when there were problems that needed to be addressed. 

Unfortunately, many advisors are way overworked and underpaid.  They have too many students they are responsible for and there is no way they can give each student the time and attention needed.  

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4 minutes ago, cintinative said:

I guess they found out late in the game that UCF is mocked by students as "U Can't Finish" and they are starting to understand why. Other than just googling, what sites are good for student reviews?

they could try reddit and ask there.  Or join a facebook group.  I moderate a parent group for the college my dd attends and there are so many complaints about advising.  

 

ETA - maybe college confidential?  I haven't been to that forum in years.  

Edited by Kassia
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2 minutes ago, Kassia said:

My kids' universities were/are absolutely awful with advising.  And all of my kids were promised special advising due to them being in the honors program but it didn't happen.  It can be very costly if your student doesn't graduate on time due to poor advising.  My kids were really organized and on top of what they needed to graduate except for my one on the spectrum and I was definitely his adviser during his time in college.  He did all the coursework, I planned his schedule and courses each semester and had him contact his advisor when there were problems that needed to be addressed. 

Unfortunately, many advisors are way overworked and underpaid.  They have too many students they are responsible for and there is no way they can give each student the time and attention needed.  

Are you able to briefly elaborate on your process?  I am finding some schools provide a four year "curriculum map" (etc.) and it will say that they need so many gen eds in these categories, etc. and other schools only provide a listing of the courses pertaining to the major and don't lay out those other ones. How did you go about tracking that information down if it wasn't obvious from the website? Did you have luck emailing the contact for the major(s)?  I think if I could get that information that would help me be better prepared as you were.

I noticed you just posted twice while I typed and I don't know what yet, so maybe you already answered this.  😃 

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For freshman year, my kids and I went through the college requirements for GenEds and their chosen major, and they signed up for what they wanted to.  They are now (graduated) so grateful.  The course counseling is atrocious.  None of my kids were plug-and-play, they had DE and AP classes and did not need to sign up for the 'standard' freshman classes.  There are often more interesting classes that you can substitute, or classes that double-count for some requirements.  This is not rocket science to figure out the classes that will work best for your kid - those group counselling sessions or some rando grad student that didn't even have the same major as your kid and has never met them before is not going to give good advice or care that your kid graduates on time or has room in their scheule to take interesting electives!!  I also taught them how to look up professor reviews.   By sophomore year, they knew how to figure it out for themselves (well, my youngest, who wanted to graduate ASAP, still asked my advice to get it done on her schedule - she graduated at 20 - and if Covid hadn't hit, she likely could've gotten in a minor as well).  But even she knew the ropes well enough to figure out how to avoid a professor she couldn't stnad by taking one class at a different college and made all the calls herself to make sure the credits would transfer back seamlessly.

My db and SIL were hands-off with their kid, and he ended up signing up for a year of super-easy, random, generic GenEds (Intro to Humanties, Intro to Theater, etc.), leaving him nothing but major courses to take if he wanted to finish on time, except he had no idea what he wanted to major in.  Oh, and they didn't tell him to take ANY MATH his freshman year.  He never did take any math (one course required for the major he ended up deciding on - well, and even as a GenEd you need at least one math course) but I guess it's moot because he flunked out before finishing.  Never.skip.math your freshman year!  It's not going to get easier or less intimidating after a year off!!!  And often the math is needed to understand other courses.  What a mess.  I could wring that college counselor's neck. 

Edited by Matryoshka
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8 minutes ago, cintinative said:

Are you able to briefly elaborate on your process?  I am finding some schools provide a four year "curriculum map" (etc.) and it will say that they need so many gen eds in these categories, etc. and other schools only provide a listing of the courses pertaining to the major and don't lay out those other ones. How did you go about tracking that information down if it wasn't obvious from the website? Did you have luck emailing the contact for the major(s)?  I think if I could get that information that would help me be better prepared as you were.

I noticed you just posted twice while I typed and I don't know what yet, so maybe you already answered this.  😃 

It's all been on the website for the schools I've done research into (I've helped some other kids that aren't mine with this too.  It's gotten to be a bit of a superpower).  You just have to usually consolidate the info from a bunch of different pages.  How many credits in each area of general requirements, how many credits in the major, what can double-count, what electives count, etc.  

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40 minutes ago, cintinative said:

Are you able to briefly elaborate on your process?  I am finding some schools provide a four year "curriculum map" (etc.) and it will say that they need so many gen eds in these categories, etc. and other schools only provide a listing of the courses pertaining to the major and don't lay out those other ones. How did you go about tracking that information down if it wasn't obvious from the website? Did you have luck emailing the contact for the major(s)?  I think if I could get that information that would help me be better prepared as you were.

I noticed you just posted twice while I typed and I don't know what yet, so maybe you already answered this.  😃 

Most schools will have all of the requirements for the degree on their website.  Some will even have a four year sample breakdown or flow chart.  Some things to be careful with are to make sure you keep an eye on prerequisites and also to make sure the courses are offered in the semester your student will take them.  For example, if your student plans on taking a specific course in spring but it's only offered in fall - you don't want to find that out too late.  

Once your student is admitted and has classes (either through transfer credits from AP or DE or once they've been enrolled and taken classes), they should be able to run a degree audit from their student account - that should clearly show what classes they've completed and which are still needed to graduate. 

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This was one question I almost always asked on college visits. My kids didn't really understand why it was a concern until they lived it. I would usually ask the process for registration along with any tips for how to navigate it (for example, if course registration for freshman is at orientation do they hold back some spaces in classes for later orientation dates or is going to the first orientation date desirable for best course selection?)

I have had three kids go through this now and we really haven't had trouble. However, my kids have gone in with a plan and very educated as to what they needed and what their plan A, B, C, D, etc would be. We have also done preparation and asked questions prior to the date. AP credits can be iffy because sometimes registration dates take place before scores are in but my kids always had de grades already on file at the colleges so that part went smoothly. 

This is one area that it is good for parents to be involved with the process the first time. Being prepared for registration and knowing what you need and what your options are is really worth the time and effort. It is one of those times it is important for the student to remember they are just a number (at UCF one of like 10,000+ new students?) and they really are just a number and no one there is really going to care if they get the right schedule or take an extra class they didn't need or miss a prereq or whatever. Most kids are going to have been conditioned to just trust what the person in charge tells them to do and they really need to learn to not do that and advocate for themselves.

 

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older son's experience was likewise not good. First-year students were not allowed to just look at the catalog and pick classes - they had to talk to the counselor and have them sign them up. The counselor was unclear on the requirements for his major and refused to submit the set of classes/schedule he wanted. Part of the issue is he arrived w/ all but 1 GE completed due to AP and DE courses, so I'm sure his schedule was a bit unusual but he was also really specific 'I want to take every intro dance class you have. There are no prerequisites, I can fit them in my schedule, I'm under the credit-hours limits for the term, and here is my plan showing I will do that and still graduate in 3 years'. Counselor was undeterred and signed him up for only 1. He ended up having to just contact the dean, who leaned on someone and fixed it.

I was shocked. When I was an undergrad they just handed you the book and said 'you sign up via phone starting at 8AM tomorrow. good luck'. I'm sure that's also not great for many people.

 

 

 

 

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My last two kids (2018 and 2021 grads) went to big public Us and actually had advisors load their classes in their registration portals in advance of their registration date. So they had a chance to look at what their advisors were recommending before their date went live to register and their could contact their advisor to discuss. I can’t recall if they could change it themselves or not but they did get to see what their advisors had planned for them in advance. 
 

Everything being online and the online degree audits really makes this a better process than it was when we had a paper catalog. I remember going at my registration time and putting in my request and then waiting to see whether it was accepted or not. A short paper was a failed schedule and I would have to try again. A full sheet of paper meant I got a full working schedule. Very stressful process! Now you can get live updates to open seats and new sections opening etc. and students really can be more proactive in the process. They just need to learn the ropes. You still can’t trust advisors but you have more access to information than “back in the day”. 

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I have found a number of schools especially then medium and large size schools will not do advising until student registration as they don’t have the resources. Students are usually still changing their minds on colleges and courses till school start time. It is helpful when students know what they want to study but when they are undecided then, all bets are off. 

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My oldest was NCAA, so they had specialized course counseling to ensure they made it through in 4 years successfully. However, she and I ALWAYS checked and double-checked.

DD2 is in honors and had like 3 advisors her first semester. HOWEVER, Covid has changed everything. I don't even really think talking to people who experienced course advising pre-Covid is any good - it's changed so much. The advisors are short-handed - fewer advisors with more students. It's a mess out there. DD makes her own list and we double check everything to make sure no pre-reqs are being overlooked.

Best thing to do is dig into the catalog information for each major yourself (and, obvs, your kid). Make a spreadsheet of what classes need to be taken in what order. Contact an advisor to make changes to what they might have defaulted to put in your schedule.

This is one of those things where, if you want it done right (and to graduate in time) you've just got to do it yourself. No one will look out for you the way you (the student and the parent) will.

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13 hours ago, cintinative said:

Are you able to briefly elaborate on your process?  I am finding some schools provide a four year "curriculum map" (etc.) and it will say that they need so many gen eds in these categories, etc. and other schools only provide a listing of the courses pertaining to the major and don't lay out those other ones. How did you go about tracking that information down if it wasn't obvious from the website? Did you have luck emailing the contact for the major(s)?  I think if I could get that information that would help me be better prepared as you were.

I noticed you just posted twice while I typed and I don't know what yet, so maybe you already answered this.  😃 

I tend to use search engines to find sample course plans, because they are often buried on the department's pages, rather than on the pages for the catalog or registrar. 

Make sure the student has the current version or version for their year. Older versions can be higher in search rankings because they've been visited more often. 

The student could also reach out to prospective departments ahead of time to ask what to register for.

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My dd's advisor is very very good and I believe the same model is used across campus.  Her first semester was already hand-scheduled by her advisor.  During orientation week, everyone had a one-on-one meeting with their advisors to discuss adjustments the student might want to make to that schedule.  In dd's case, she wanted to add a PE course and switch a Gen Ed, which the advisor took care of on the spot.  Then showed her the flowchart for her major with the DE/AP courses dd already had marked out.  They discussed how best to follow her own path, trying to spread out high-pressure classes with lower, and what classes will be difficult to access until she has higher registration priority.  Now that dd has a year under her belt and a better idea of what level of load she can handle, her advisor has adjusted her flowchart yet again as it turns out dd is not able to handle the 18ish credits per semester that the flowchart dictates.  I was really impressed that the advisor acknowledged dd's limitations rather than pressure her to stay on track.

That said, I also work very closely with dd before registration each semester and make sure she understands her options and the pros/cons of different options.  Once we have done this and she has a plan for registration, she meets with her advisor to discuss.  The flowchart is pretty clear but dd also has a minor so the advisor is good at pointing out alternatives that would apply to both programs that we may not otherwise note.  As in, there are some acceptable substitutions to required classes that are not obvious.

Dd is not naturally good at this sort of thing, but I think even if she were, that once-a-semester meeting with her advisor is really important.  I would recommend that the OP's nephew or any college student push a semesterly one-on-one with their advisor, even if it is not offered or recommended.  That is literally their job.  And if they are refused or give bad info, I would take it up to the department chair, dean, or beyond.

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I think it's a good idea for students to look at those major maps before enrolling as part of their college search and choice process, by the way. It's really illuminating as to what your education will look like.

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18 minutes ago, Farrar said:

I think it's a good idea for students to look at those major maps before enrolling as part of their college search and choice process, by the way. It's really illuminating as to what your education will look like.

On the last day of class in my Bio 2 course I have students bring in the course map for their chosen major (if seniors) or possible majors at different colleges that they are considering.  I figure it's good for the seniors to find them before they head off to orientation, and for the others it's useful in thinking about what they want to major in. I've printed off a couple from colleges that older is considering so that we can use them as guides for choosing AP and DE classes.  We pick classes for different reasons, but if kid just needs to sign up for an English or history and doesn't particularly care, they might as well do one that fulfills a requirement.  We look at the AP equivalency to see what will count and also we've played around  with the course transfer website to see what classes will transfer and earn credit in the particular programs that they are considering.  

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Can he access degree works? Or something similar? My kids were able to figure out  what classes they needed on their own, plan  their  schedules, and  talk to their  advisors before registering. 

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Freshman orientation and scheduling is just bad all over- there aren't enough advisors and so many kids have unique circumstances.  What I did- we printed off all the degree plans for the possible degrees.  Marked off everything she took DE (we sent transcript early, so it was reflected in her account), then made up a list of possible classes she needed to take.  Next we used the Coursicle app to make up possible schedules.  When she went in, she had 3 possible schedules- advisor took a look, said obviously she knew what she was doing and approved it all- she was in and out in just a few minutes.   

Is it possible to change his schedule?  If so, do the work for him a bit- figure out what makes a more balanced schedule.  AP course equivalent and transfer (DE) courses should be available on their website.   

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This was posted today about the advisors for dd's major at her university because current students haven't been getting responses from their advisors for weeks:

They are severely understaffed (about nine academic advisors for about 6,700 undergraduate students) and are currently focusing on incoming students and orientation.

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One tip that certainly doesn't work over summer breaks and not over Covid is going in person to advising vs. trying to email. My kids knew that they could get action on advising much faster by being in the office when it opened vs. making calls or attempting emails. Sometimes all you need is a signature (or in these digital times some advisor to literally push a button) to allow you in a class or approve a schedule request. But there are 5000 people emailing with the same request. 

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5 hours ago, teachermom2834 said:

One tip that certainly doesn't work over summer breaks and not over Covid is going in person to advising vs. trying to email. My kids knew that they could get action on advising much faster by being in the office when it opened vs. making calls or attempting emails. Sometimes all you need is a signature (or in these digital times some advisor to literally push a button) to allow you in a class or approve a schedule request. But there are 5000 people emailing with the same request. 

YES to this. Much easier and to-the-point to go to their office directly. Covid wrecked all of that. Now advisors don’t see students in person at al or they are only on their office random hours on random days…

They have sooo many emails to slog through. If my dd has a question it takes almost a week to hear back. 
 

I didn’t mention in my previous post, but my son is a music major so thankfully his stuff is either repetitive or just-take-the-next thing. He’s also minoring in something completely unrelated so he just puts it together himself and generally skips the advising appointments. 

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That is unfortunate; I am sorry he had this experience. Is advising done by staff of a central advising center, or are the advisors faculty from the academic departments? 

Re math: does the school have math advisors in addition to the major-specific ones? We have math advisors who can give guidance when the situation is unusual. I would definitely consult the math department about the recommendation against calculus.

Re AP and DE: have you checked the website of the school, possibly under Office of the Registrar? There should be information about transfer credits and credit by exam. Our school has a table that lists the AP exams and what credit students get for what score, as well as a database to look up courses taken elsewhere and see exactly as what they transfer. Advisors might know some of the most common APs, but would have to look up the others, and they would need to look up the transfer credit because there's too many different scenarios - you might be able to do that yourself.

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3 hours ago, JanetC said:

What you sign up for at freshman orientation isn't forever. Many kids continue to add/drop after that first class selection meeting.

Yes, but depending on the school, incoming freshmen may be prevented from changing their classes unless they clear it with an advisor.
If your student finds they are unable to add/drop, the enrollment system may have placed an automatic hold that can only be lifted by the academic advisor. 

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9 hours ago, regentrude said:

That is unfortunate; I am sorry he had this experience. Is advising done by staff of a central advising center, or are the advisors faculty from the academic departments? 

 

My relatives told me that my nephew's advisor for his major was present when they were scheduling. I guess everyone from that major was in a big room and he floated between computers. But he is also the one telling everyone to taking College Algebra, regardless of if they had previously tested past pre-calc.  I will ask them how it panned out. I believe they were going to schedule him for precalculus instead, and then investigate calculus. I am not sure what happened with the APs but I will ask them soon.   (As an aside, I wonder if they are pushing everyone to take College Algebra because they are finding incoming students are not prepared for the higher math?)

This thread has been eye opening. I had no idea how common these sort of issues were.

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Posted (edited)
26 minutes ago, cintinative said:

As an aside, I wonder if they are pushing everyone to take College Algebra because they are finding incoming students are not prepared for the higher math?

Does the college not have a math placement test???

And yes, many many freshmen are not ready for calculus at college- despite having had precalculus ( and even Calc) in highschool. The number of students who place into Calc has gone way down at my STEM school. Even students with AP Calc are sometimes weak in algebra or forgot their trig.

I wonder whether there's more to the story. Like, whether he was *forcing* students to sign up for algebra or strongly *recommending* they do - which wouldn't necessarily be bad advice.

but of course, yes, crummy advising exists.

Edited by regentrude
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2 minutes ago, regentrude said:

Does the college not have a math placement test???

 

Yes, and he supposedly tested as having completed precalculus. It's a long story but, in other bad advising news, my nephew took a full year of trig and then a full year of precalculus in high school because the high school messed up.  There is no way he needs College Algebra and Trig (again).  I am sure you are right--it was more of a "strongly advise."  

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On 6/29/2022 at 9:53 AM, Kassia said:

This was posted today about the advisors for dd's major at her university because current students haven't been getting responses from their advisors for weeks:

They are severely understaffed (about nine academic advisors for about 6,700 undergraduate students) and are currently focusing on incoming students and orientation.

That is a scary ratio and reminds me of public high school counselor ratio. Tried looking for how many academic advisors my local private university has and couldn’t find it. I haven’t really dig for the info though, just did a 5mins quick search.

3 hours ago, cintinative said:

Yes, and he supposedly tested as having completed precalculus. It's a long story but, in other bad advising news, my nephew took a full year of trig and then a full year of precalculus in high school because the high school messed up.  There is no way he needs College Algebra and Trig (again).  I am sure you are right--it was more of a "strongly advise."  

It also makes me consider whether there is a minimum score required on the math placement test. DS16 had to escalate all the way to the dean of engineering (community college) to get his physics with calculus prerequisite waive for discrete mathematics. The admin could not do the overwrite so told him that he needs to petition the dean. DS16 petition the dean of admin who told him to petition the dean of engineering. DS17 is also used to petitioning for prerequisite clearance. His electrical circuit analysis class has a java prerequisite and AP compsci A (java based) is one of the AP exams that does not get any credit. He wrote an email petitioning and had the prerequisite waived. 

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When I went to college, it was a pretty simple path to my degree.  It was laid out well, and any classes I needed always seemed to be available.  My parents were never involved and there were never any problems.

It was a different story for my kids, one we learned the hard way for the first one.  She's a careful and conscientious student, but neither of us realized (and she wasn't advised to do this) that she really needed to map out her course work for the entire four years as much as possible.  Some classes were available only one semester/year, some only every other year!  Things like that.  I guess this was obvious to her advisors so they didn't explain it to her and didn't occur to either of us.  She ended up dropping a major in order to be done in four years.  Oh well, it didn't matter so much for her, but it was still frustrating.

We learned for our other kids and planned differently, and I was a little more involved at times.  My kids' experience overall was that advisors were there if you had questions, but not to lay it all out ahead of time.

 

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It is frustrating for kids that are on top of it and getting good advice from someone other than the advisor and don’t really need the advisor yet are held hostage by an advisor’s approval to register. Not all schools do this and some only do it freshman year. But there are schools that require that advisor’s approval every semester and that is so frustrating when it feels like the advisor is an impediment rather than an ally. 
 

I always have to remind myself that my kids and those of the parents on this board aren’t representative of the average student. It was this issue that made me understand for the first time what first generation students can find themselves up against. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, teachermom2834 said:

It is frustrating for kids that are on top of it and getting good advice from someone other than the advisor and don’t really need the advisor yet are held hostage by an advisor’s approval to register. Not all schools do this and some only do it freshman year. But there are schools that require that advisor’s approval every semester and that is so frustrating when it feels like the advisor is an impediment rather than an ally. 

Advisors are under tremendous pressure from the school administration to ensure retention. Because, money. Hence, more hoops.

OTOH, as an advisor, I have also encountered students who are on top of things and have gotten advice who have misconceptions and benefit from the advisor's knowledge about details that are not obvious from the curriculum outlines they find on the website. Always assuming the advisors know their stuff, of course.
 

Edited by regentrude
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I feel a need to confess- I make spreadsheets for all 4 years- including CC classes they take in HS.  I make them for different degrees and different schools if kiddo hasn't decided yet.  I map out the WHOLE picture.  I mark prerequisites, corequisites and classes that are only offered Fall (burgundy) or Spring (green) semesters.  Our last department tour I took it with us and had the professor look over it before we sign up for more DE classes- in case I missed something.  She did have a few changes to suggest- moving a Stats class and one class is usually online only,  and taken over a summer.  I just explain that due to DE, we want to be sure we understand that all our classes are correct.  I also ask if there are classes listed to take at CC that they recommend we wait and take at the 4-year, because sometimes there are!  Or maybe something offered in Honors College that would be more fun.  

My oldest now does her own spreadsheets,  shes still changing degrees, lol!  Right now she's making pathways that include a study abroad trip, trying to find classes that transfer.  

If you haven't taught your HS or college kid how to map it all out, I'd suggest it!  Look ahead for all those details!  My oldest has met with so many advisors- they try,  but it isnt the same as doing it yourself.  I feel like they are way overworked!  Too many students, so yours is just a number. 

As for math, there should be a placement test or recommendation based on ACT/SAT math subscores.  I wondered if they suggested the lower math bc so many aren't used to the pace?  Or maybe to build a good GPA?  If the degree requires lots of math (Calc 1, 2, 3, Discrete Math, etc) then starting out so low will make the degree take longer!  Calc can also be a prerequisite to other science, engineering,  or computer classes.  I wish him luck getting into the right one!

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12 minutes ago, BusyMom5 said:

I feel a need to confess- I make spreadsheets for all 4 years- including CC classes they take in HS.  I make them for different degrees and different schools if kiddo hasn't decided yet. 

Is this something you would feel comfortable sharing with me via PM so I can copy your idea?  Thanks for considering.

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Posted (edited)
20 minutes ago, BusyMom5 said:

I feel a need to confess- I make spreadsheets for all 4 years- including CC classes they take in HS.  I make them for different degrees and different schools if kiddo hasn't decided yet.  I map out the WHOLE picture.  I mark prerequisites, corequisites and classes that are only offered Fall (burgundy) or Spring (green) semesters. 

Just as a heads-up: the bolded information is often difficult (or impossible) to find without explicitly asking the department.

Edited by regentrude
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1 hour ago, regentrude said:

Just as a heads-up: the bolded information is often difficult (or impossible) to find without explicitly asking the department.

At the colleges I've looked at, its often in a different place- you have to go to the course descriptions page for each one and it will tell when its offered.  Its not on the degree plans pages.

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I am really surprised that the lack of good and advising and information is so common!  I used to be an advisor at the same public university dd attends so she definitely has some extra help from me but she really would not need it.  Every department has at least one academic advisor and they are super accessible.  A flowchart is available for every major offered and that chart includes what semesters classes are offered.  We have a lot of classes that are only offered once a year or even once every other year, but that is indicated on the flowcharts as well as the course descriptions.  These both can be found online and are available to anyone such as parents and prospective students.

A close friend of mine is currently an advisor at the same school and so I asked him about this.  He reports that about half of his students schedule a one-on-one with him on a semesterly basis.  And some, he never sees after the initial freshman required one-on-one.  He has 300 total and says that is a pretty average load across campus.  

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On 6/28/2022 at 5:53 PM, Kassia said:

My kids' universities were/are absolutely awful with advising.  And all of my kids were promised special advising due to them being in the honors program but it didn't happen.  It can be very costly if your student doesn't graduate on time due to poor advising.  My kids were really organized and on top of what they needed to graduate except for my one on the spectrum and I was definitely his adviser during his time in college.  He did all the coursework, I planned his schedule and courses each semester and had him contact his advisor when there were problems that needed to be addressed. 

Unfortunately, many advisors are way overworked and underpaid.  They have too many students they are responsible for and there is no way they can give each student the time and attention needed.  

Thanks for sharing this. Filing this away for later. We have tuition coverage through my work to a local university, and this is one of my concerns. (issues with advising)

 

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On 7/1/2022 at 3:13 AM, regentrude said:

Yes, but depending on the school, incoming freshmen may be prevented from changing their classes unless they clear it with an advisor.
If your student finds they are unable to add/drop, the enrollment system may have placed an automatic hold that can only be lifted by the academic advisor. 

This sounds like something that was put in place as a safeguard, but could be a massive PITA, especially if you're trying to meet with an advisor who's carrying a huge case load. 

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26 minutes ago, MagistraKennedy said:

This sounds like something that was put in place as a safeguard, but could be a massive PITA, especially if you're trying to meet with an advisor who's carrying a huge case load. 

That's exactly right!  It's really horrible for students in this position.  Especially if they are seeing their classes fill up while waiting to get a response from their advisor.

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Wow, I’m feeling so fortunate that our state U is so good about this stuff. 

My son filled out a pre-advising questionnaire about his intended major and potential interest in any future minors or double majors, then it guided him through each category of breadth requirements and had him look through the types of classes available for each one and had him list some ideas about his preferences in each category.

Then he went to a pre-advisement webinar live online to learn what the process would be, graduation requirements would be, and what the available tools for managing his plans were (online audit tools to show him what requirements are met and in progress and still to be met, 4-Year suggested planner, etc).

Finally he met one on one with his assigned advisor, who had his transcript, transfer transcripts and self-reported AP’s and math placement score, and they looked at the recommended freshman year plan, filled in the obvious required courses, then looked at the spaces where options existed and talked about the choices available for those options, with backup plans for each slot (schedules aren’t final until August).

At his request, I sat in the background during the advising appointment, but I didn’t actually say anything— he handled it just fine on his own, which I figured he would. I DID give him a heads-up before he went in to let him know the advisor would have a “formula” to work from, and he had a right to self-advocate to diverge from the formula if appropriate (our older son did not do this and ended up with 18 credits his first semester, which was rough, though he survived). DS2 ended up with a good schedule that he’s happy with, and feels he now knows the process if he wants to go back and talk to his advisor about changing something up later, and I reminded him he DOES have room to drop one course during free drop/add if he needs to (I’m fine if he only carries 12 credits his first semester), and pointed out which one would be best to drop, but after that I’m pretty hands-off with my kids for course enrollment, unless they ask.

DO have your student log in to the university’s system and do some poking around. There may well be some “tools for success” sitting around they may want to be familiar with such as degree audit calendars, pre-scheduling planners that let you put in trial schedules ahead of your registration time so you have time to think through your scheduling plans and make a few different plans in case the sections you wanted fill up, and suggested 4-year plans. I think a lot of colleges and universities do have these kinds of tools parked somewhere. It may also be possible to change advisors after the semester starts, if they find their advisor is just not a good fit, depending on the size of the school/department.

 

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I have been completely hands off with my current student who just finished his freshman year. Part of it, I’m sure, is the malaise that sets in as you go through kids and part of it is that he is hyper organized, type A, etc. I ask him generally if it is under control but I haven’t even known when he was registering. He has just had the benefit of being around all the discussions we had with his older brothers and had to listen about all my general lectures about being informed, advocating for himself, etc. 

He was telling me that he was positive he was getting wrong information from his advisor who was not allowing him to register for a class he knew was a prerequisite for a class he would take in a future semester for a minor he wants. He ended up escalating to the dean of the department who had to contact the advisor and tell her to let him register for the class. It worked out and I didn’t hear about it until after the fact. But how many kids away from home their first year are going to pursue that? 
 

It’s a tough situation. Surely advisors help kids out. Mine have had questions they needed answered and their advisors were able to answer better than anything they could find online. One ds had an advisor who was great about going in and giving gen Ed credits for de courses that hadn’t fit exactly into their transfer requirements in the initial generic course audit. Surely advisors are overworked and no doubt they get a crush of emails at the last minute before registration.

 

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Just wanted to add my DD18's good experience to the list...she is attending a large state university (30,000ish students) and had a great advising experience so far.  We attended orientation in June.  During orientation students had a 1 hr meeting on the first afternoon as a group with an advisor or other staff member (not necessarily each student's actual advisor) from the department.  My daughter's group included others with her major and a few other majors from the same department.  The advisor walked them through the registration process, gave them the 4 year plan for their major (we had seen this before -- it was handed out at both the prospective student visits we did), and had them fill out a worksheet with their personal choices for first semester classes.  Then they had individual 30 minute meetings (the next morning) to go over class choices, answer questions, etc.  My daughter found this super helpful, and the advisor had some good suggestions for her (what to take for her minor, an easier Chem class that still met the requirements, confirmed that she qualified to skip the first freshman English class, etc).  Then the advisor helped her get started with the actual registration process on the computer.   Amazingly, after we left, she even helped DD switch from a 7:50am Chem section to a 9am section that opened up for registration the next day.  The advisor was able to just go in the system and switch it.  (New "Seats" open up each day for students registering...probably the students to attend orientation last are stuck with the worst sections...lol).  

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Posted (edited)

Add me to the list of parents who made a full spreadsheet of all GE and major/minor requirements, along with a list of the possible course options that would fulfill each requirement and would be of interest to DS. One of the reasons he chose the university he did was that the highly-ranked department for his major is HUGE and therefore able to offer a ton of classes that also count for GEs, so he wanted to be sure he wouldn't be stuck in a bunch of random generic classes like Intro Psych, World History, etc., by an advisor he just met who was scheduling a ton of other students at the same time. 

There's a large FB parents group for this uni, and when I couldn't initially find the fall class schedule online, I asked in the group if the schedule had been released yet, because DS wanted to choose his classes before orientation — and I was immediately met with a barrage of posts telling me that was totally unnecessary because the advisor would choose the classes for him. I even got several rather patronizing admonitions that it was time for me to "let go" and let the college take over. I ignored that advice and DS showed up to orientation with a print out of the schedule he wanted, which the advisor was fine with.

Fast forward a couple of months, and the same group was full of posts about kids who were upset that they were stuck in classes they didn't want or had already taken in HS, were missing classes they needed for their major or as prerequisites for other classes, and now it was too late to change. And then every spring there are a bunch of last-minute freakouts when parents find out that their kid can't graduate because they're missing 1 credit or a GE or something, and they're furious the advisor didn't catch it. DS also had a teammate who ended up losing his full ride athletic scholarship for "lack of progress towards degree" after his advisor did not explain the consequences of radically changing majors just prior to junior year when he had not met any of the prereq's for that major. DS said he was super grateful that I helped him navigate all that stuff.

ETA: Another way in which It really helped to have a spreadsheet and keep it updated as he went is that often the automatic degree audit software would assign courses to specific categories that were not where he wanted that course to go. This was especially true with courses that could count for his major, one of his two minors, or as a GE — he had specific reasons for wanting to use some of those as GEs and others as major or minor courses, and rearranging those was the one thing he did use his advisor for. He would email her his spreadsheet and ask to please move course X to this GE category, move Y from GE to major, move Z from minor A to minor B, etc., and his advisor could clearly see his plan from the spreadsheet and was able to move things around for him.

Edited by Corraleno
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I’m so sorry about OP’s nephew’s experience; that’s just inexcusable. DD has just enrolled in a 50k-student university. Her advising has been excellent, but with that being said, I have worked closely with her, detailed spreadsheet in hand. I feel for kids who don’t have someone to help guide the process. 

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One of my adult dc had a terrible advising experience before freshman year.  Dc had gone in with a list of courses to meet gen ed requirements and major prerequisites, and the advisors wouldn't approve some of them, even though the catalog said all were open to freshmen. They said dc wanted to take too many difficult classes at the same time and insisted on signing dc up for some easier gen ed classes dc had no interest in; they said if dc really wanted to, it would be possible to change registration online later.  Dc changed the course registration as soon as we returned home.  All of the desired classes and instructors were terrific, and dc had a great semester.  Advising for later semesters went a lot more smoothly.   

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12 hours ago, klmama said:

One of my adult dc had a terrible advising experience before freshman year.  Dc had gone in with a list of courses to meet gen ed requirements and major prerequisites, and the advisors wouldn't approve some of them, even though the catalog said all were open to freshmen. They said dc wanted to take too many difficult classes at the same time and insisted on signing dc up for some easier gen ed classes dc had no interest in; they said if dc really wanted to, it would be possible to change registration online later.  Dc changed the course registration as soon as we returned home.  All of the desired classes and instructors were terrific, and dc had a great semester.  Advising for later semesters went a lot more smoothly.   

You know, this is really a tough one for the advisor, since they don't know the incoming freshman and have very limited information about their ability to handle college.

More often than not, the new students have unrealistic expectations about the demands, which is why advisors recommend a lighter freshman semester. That, of course, is unfortunate for a student with high academic ability, executive functioning and college experience who would be capable of more rigorous work.

As an advisor,  I have to guess for each student what class schedule positions them for optimum success. Our experience is that the number of students who struggle because they are overwhelmed vastly exceeds the number of students who are insufficiently challenged. 

It becomes easier in subsequent semesters. I know that student S did great with 17 credit hours, so I will sign the permission for excess hours and let him take 21. I know that Y is on academic probation because of his low GPA and will limit his schedule to no more than 12 hours and steer him towards easier classes until he has regained his footing.

But for incoming students,  it's tough. And if we err on the side of letting the student pile on too much and he ends up failing and has to repeat classes or is so discouraged that he drops out, that damage is greater than having a student take fewer/easier courses than they might be able to handle - they can use the extra time for undergrad research or the Mars rover design team. 

Edited by regentrude
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Regentrude, I do understand that advisors are in a tough spot.  They must see a lot of students who struggle, and taking more credits than the norm without any track record of success in college coursework should definitely raise red flags!  In this case, though, dc was just trying to register for 15 credits of freshman-level classes.  

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