Furman’s advising system is in place to guide students through their undergraduate careers. Freshmen are assigned their advisors based on preliminary major interests, but students are free to choose an advisor once they choose a major and find a professor that has the right “fit.” However, inconsistencies threaded through the advising program are forcing students, professors and administrators to question the program’s legitimacy and effectiveness.
The conceptual framework of the program is ingenious. Friends and family members who attend universities with tens of thousands of students struggle with the student-to-faculty ratio. These students face roadblocks in major declaration and course registration, simply because the faculty member cannot fit them into their busy schedules. Many students with these complications even have to extend their enrollment with the university, because the guidance they needed was not easily accessible.
Furman students are fortunate to have an advising system in place during our entire undergraduate careers, but numerous miniscule oversights are putting the entire program at risk. As the course adjustment period approaches, there is no way to tell how many advisors actually discussed selection with their advisees. Some advisors reach out to their advisees ahead of time to schedule a meeting. Some advisees will respond, but many will not. It is then up to the advisor whether or not to pursue the student. An advisor can either approve the student’s selections without a meeting or refuse enrollment until they schedule a meeting. More often than not, students are enrolling into courses without getting approval from the advisor because it is the easy way to check the task off the list. There are two types of students in this category: those who are satisfied that they do not have to schedule and attend another meeting, or those who are disheartened that our advisor is not doing something we expected of them – advising. Unfortunately, the latter group is much smaller than the prior.
Advisor satisfaction within the system is also divided. Some advisors take great pride in their role. They will do everything they can to meet with all of their advisees and help them stay on the right track. Others take the laissez-faire approach and prefer the students reach out to them if guidance is needed. Which approach the advisor takes often depends on the number of advisees he or she has. Some advisors have more than 30 students under their wings, while others have as little as five, depending on which academic discipline they advise. Often times, advisors are sharing the load of faculty members away on sabbatical or studying abroad, increasing the number of advisees they need to assist. The load inconsistency alone raises concerns as to why this program is not succeeding.
The advising program is vital to a Furman student’s college career. As students, we do not need our advisors to hold our hands during our four years, but each of us deserves equal opportunity to receive advice from an expert on how to succeed on this unique campus. Course selection is just one facet of this program, but it is a concrete example of how unclear expectations negatively affect the success of every Furman student. Students, faculty and staff should work together to create a program that benefits and invests the entire Furman community and redefine what it means to advise.