As an undergraduate BU student trying to navigate a career path, I often discussed course choices and experiences with friends and peers who were students at other universities. I heard stories of hellacious lines, course closures, bureaucratic red tape, and agonizing unknowns—it seemed like my friends were completely without guidance when it came to important decisions about majors, skills, courses and other academic struggles. After hearing all these tragic tales (“This semester I took a course I didn’t really need, and now I have to wait until next fall to take the one I do need.”), I always replied with the standard question: “Have you talked to your advisor?”
Reactions and responses came in various degrees of surprise, detachment, and apathy: “My advisor is way too busy to see me,” “I haven’t talked to my advisor since freshman year,” “I don’t even know who my advisor is.” My shock, I am certain, was visible.
Why was I so surprised and disheartened by my friends’ experiences? Because mine was so wonderfully different. BU students are accustomed to a level of advisor contact that’s nearly unheard of at larger schools. In my first week as a sophomore transfer, I was cornered by my advisor, Dr. Carole Pfeffer, then Chair of the English Department, so she could schedule a meeting with me “to see how things were going.”
In the following years, my advisor changed, but the personal attention didn’t. My advisors guided me through not only course choices; they advised me about my minor, my off-campus work schedule, family matters, financial aid, career options, internships, and ,finally, graduate school. They did so with grace, aplomb, and genuine concern for my success (though there were times, I am certain, that I was not always a peach as an advisee).
Many a BU student passes four whole years mentally defining his or her advisor as “that person I have to go see before I register,” almost completely ignoring the advisor as a tremendous resource. This “neglected advisor syndrome” continues to be a terrible waste on the part of the student.
Encourage students to view advisors not as cursory markers on the registration checklists, but as touchstones they can always return to as their collegiate journeys become ever more frightening and complex.
College is a time for students to tap all possible resources in order to ensure their success; Bellarmine has no shortage of resources, especially when it comes to advising. Make sure that your student takes full advantage.