Stanford’s Struggle with Pre-Major Advising

By Jamin Ball

Every year Stanford’s incoming class of freshmen possesses a wide variety of talents. In the first week before school during NSO in Memorial Auditorium, students become aware of many of the noble accomplishments of some of their peers. Among my class are Olympic athletes, entrepreneurs, and political advisors. It seemed as if every student contained a specific talent. While these talents are extraordinary, they were no doubt developed through the guidance of older, more experienced teachers or mentors. For my fellow classmates, these mentors have proved priceless and indispensible.

However, once college begins, most students will move away from home and live in a foreign city, far from the proximity of the previous mentors. This can often be a defining time for most students as they begin to live independently and do things more on their own. No longer will they live under the shadow of their parents. Their lives will truly begin to be their own. One of the great aspects of Stanford is that it offers students many different paths on which they can live their new lives. The variety of classes offered is immense compared to that of high school. For many students the list of classes can be very intimidating.

There is a lot of pressure put on Stanford students as soon as school begins to begin taking the correct classes that will lead to future jobs and work. However, a lot of students enter Stanford with only a broad list of interests and no sense of what specific classes will appeal to them. In confusing times like these, students previously turned to their parents or mentor for guidance. Unfortunately, these parents and mentors are often back home, nowhere near school, which forces students to guide their own life. This transition of becoming independent does not need to be sharp, and Stanford provides students with multiple counselors for assistance. However, the advising system at Stanford does not adequately aid students in exploring the vast amount of opportunities available to them at Stanford.

Before students declare their major at Stanford they have a pre-major advisor and an academic advisor. This appears sufficient, yet most students remain unsatisfied with the guidance they receive. The pre-major advisor serves as an excellent, more experienced person to talk with about your time at school, but they offer no guidance when it comes to what classes to enroll in. The pre-major advisor is mainly someone to talk to about any broad potential problems a student may be having. On the other hand, meetings with the academic advisor are rare, and students lack a personal relationship with their advisor. The lack of familiarity between the academic advisors and their students makes it difficult for students to receive specific help with regard to class selection. As freshman Connor Barnett stated, “The current advising system provides students with inadequate guidance, both with regard to specific class selection and important life decisions. It needs to be reformed and should incorporate comprehensive exposure to all of Stanford’s diverse academic offerings, especially given Stanford’s unique emphasis on interdisciplinary education and research.” This sums up the pre-major advising system.

Unfortunately, freshmen are unable to familiarize themselves with the class lists prior to registration, and their advisors are unable to help due to their lack of knowledge about the available classes. The most effective advisor is one who attended Stanford and went through the process of selecting classes. A system should be implemented where students have the opportunity to visit panels from a variety of majors, where a representative from each major is present and available to describe all the classes for the major. However, it’s not necessary for every individual major to have a representative present. It would suffice to have a representative from the most prominent majors in the engineering, math, science, humanities, and social sciences departments. A panel like this could easily be organized during NSO, the week prior to the beginning of classes. This panel would effectively introduce students to prospective classes and majors and set them on the right track to begin their college experience.

This entry was posted in Articles for Volume 4, Issue 3, Spring 2011. Bookmark the permalink.

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