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Students, advisors don’t see eye to eye

November 8, 2010

By Sara Bottinelli, Staff Writer

Graphic by Kelley Lyness

The time of year for academic advising has quickly come and gone for Young Harris College students. As spring registration finishes up, the battle to get the last available seat in a class has begun.

Choosing the proper classes can be difficult for students, especially those who often find themselves at a crossroad for what their major will be and what classes they should take. To help guide students in the right direction, the Academic Advising Center places themselves at the heart of this crossroad.

While every student is required to visit a staff member in the center before registration begins, some students walk away less than confident about the advice they received. This uncertainty has led students and faculty alike to question the accuracy of the Academic Advising Center, as well as the credibility of student’s statements.

For upperclassman, the stressful process of class registration is quite familiar. For freshman, this new process can be a whirlwind of information and decision making.  This is where the Academic Advising Center should step in.

In the 2010-2011 edition of the Guide to Student Life handbook the mission statement of the center is to “educate, inspire and empower students in identifying and achieving their academic and career goals.”

Approximately 560 students have visited the center this semester, putting this mission statement to the test.

Currently, three professional academic advisors, along with approximately 32 other faculty advisors, make up the advising staff.  Questions have been raised to the proper qualifications of some advisors and their ability to help students choose the right classes for their major.

“I am confident in the advising staff at Young Harris College and our ability to assist students in their educational pursuits” stated Debbie T. Roach, the director of the academic advising center. “All advisors are qualified for their positions. The professional advisors in the center all have experience in the field and are qualified to advise freshman and sophomore students.”

The bold statements made by the center have been contradicted by some students who say they have been advised to take classes they didn’t need to take.

Carson Pruitt, a sophomore from Athens has run into this very problem.

“I was told by advising to take two different biology courses that it turns out both could have been exempted. It felt like a huge waste of time, since I already knew the information and never needed the classes,” said Pruitt.

In response to these statements Roach replies, “advisors work closely with students to help them understand their degree requirements. Some students take classes that are not explicably for their majors, or sometimes they change their majors. Some students choose to take courses not only to fulfill YHC major requirements, but to prepare them for transferring to another institution. Not all of the classes taken go towards their majors, but they can always count as electives.”

Jordan Rudd, a sophomore from Buford has also run into problems with taking unneeded classes, which in her case never occurred because of a change in major.

“I was trying to transfer out, and my advisor was trying to get me to take classes so I could graduate at YHC. Before I realized it, I was taking classes I didn’t need at all,” said Rudd.

A poll was taken across campus to find out if students had ever been told by an advisor to take a class they didn’t need. Of the student body, 100 students were asked about this, and the results stated that 67 percent of the students had been told to take or had taken a class that was unnecessary.

The issue of students transferring has also been an ongoing problem. Students who are planning on transferring end up with a stack of classes that serve no purpose outside of YHC.

Since YHC is a four-year institution, much of the advising focus extends to the students who wish to finish their bachelor’s degree. A concern of proper attention being given to transfer students is relevant.

“It seems as though the advising center only focuses on accommodating four-year students. When it comes time for someone to transfer out, suddenly students are left on their own and don’t know what to take,” said Cassidy Jordan, a junior from Byron.

Some YHC students argue that not enough attention is given to transfer students to help them take the best classes; however, Roach argues differently.

Roach claimed, “the center [is] knowledgeable about transfer requirements, which used to be the main focus of YHC. We have compiled an extensive database of information about transfer schools; and, we educate students about transfer equivalency to most Georgia schools. Students are always welcome to come to the center and explore their options.”

Exploring class options in majors or choosing the best plan to transfer relies heavily on good student/advisor relationships. Roach maintains relationships with her students as a way of keeping up with her students’ needs.

“I enjoy spending time with students and appreciate the opportunity to talk with them about their plans. I believe most students are usually open and honest with us, and we try to make the center a comfortable setting for them,” Roach said.

Not all students agree that every advisor has the ability to anticipate their needs, which often results in taking classes they later realize were unnecessary.

Jordan said, “As a freshman I came as a science major and then changed to a liberal arts major to graduate. Even after I changed majors, my advisor put me into math and science classes that I was told I needed, but actually were not even for my major.”

However, not all YHC students have run into these problems with advising.

Based on the poll, a significant number of students have steered clear of registration problems and been successful in class selection. The students within this percentage stated that they had good advisors who knew what classes their students wished to sign up for.

“I have never had a problem with taking the wrong classes here. They helped me take the classes that I wanted to,” said Jessie Ryals, a sophomore from Union County.

Although some students have found success with a professional or faculty advising, the majority of students still find themselves taking classes they don’t really need.The cost of classes and the issue of falling behind make choosing the right classes of high importance.

With quotes from both the Academic Advising Center as well as from YHC students, it is safe to say that a lack of communication between both groups is sometimes present.

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