The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.
A first-year walked into his first advising session during orientation. He had no idea what he wanted to do. Rather than being told that it was okay that he didn’t know, that there was a plan for that, he was told that he needed to pick something — anything.
He took physics in high school, was an ardent science-buff and hey, the adviser was a physics professor. So physics it was.
Half way through his first semester he had dropped most of his classes. He simply wasn’t going because they were too difficult. His classmates were distant, his professors were distant and the adviser was distant.
Miami’s advising system has never been the university’s shining beacon of consistency, a problem that has struck a chord all the way up to the top of Miami’s administrative hierarchy.
It is true that there are quite a few students on campus who have had nothing but positive experiences with advising. However, they tend to be independent students with their act together — the ones who rely on unofficial advising. They actively seek the chairs of their respective departments and professors that they trust, picking their brains for not simply the classes they need to take, but the classes best suited to mold their future career paths.
Other positive experiences are purely luck of the draw. Some advisers are simply better than others and the quality of a student’s schedule often relies on their advisers knowledge and rigour.
But good advising is most important for students with undecided majors.
In an effort to combat their lax advising services, Miami University is implementing changes that include a new adviser training system and the implementation of a new course, University 101, which will help students learn to read their Degree Audit Reports (DAR).
This is long overdue. There are a surprising amount of seniors who still can’t read their DARs, let alone first years who could find the complex course acronyms and mass of requirements daunting.
While the university’s changes to the advising system should be applauded, it could go further.
Advisers could go through students’ four-year plans. This happens at some other schools. It would be difficult for undecided majors, but advisers could help them create a three-semester plan, assisting undecided students in finishing their Miami Plan courses.
Advisers should give special attention to undecided majors and help students to quickly determine a field of study they are interested in and passionate about.
With double majors and interdisciplinary degrees becoming prevalent, Miami Plan courses are no longer mandatory core classes, but strategic in graduating on time.
With this in mind, an undecided major can be a sentence to a five-year degree. The advising system can further improve by creating more programs that help undecided majors determine their interests and create goals.