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How effective is your advisor?

Many students seek direction and question the benefits of academic counseling.

By Will Flores
On February 26, 2013

  • Career Center is another useful resource for students. Located at both the Main Campus and Downtown Campus, the Career Center has walkin hours from 1-4 pm every Wednesday. Courtesy of Will Tallent/The Paisano

 

Angst-ridden freshmen and over-worked seniors sit in the waiting rooms of the advising offices in each of their respective colleges.

Some are there to take care of a registration hold, while others wait for a chance to discuss their degree plan. All have questions that need answering.

The advisors stand ready and willing to help by addressing any questions or concerns that students may have throughout their undergraduate career. But just how effective is advising?

Joshua Birdwell, a senior history major at UTSA, transferred from Northwest Vista College, one of the five Alamo Colleges in San Antonio. He has attended UTSA since the Spring of 2011 and has met with an advisor four times. Although his visits to the advising center have been rare, and brief, Birdwell stated that they have made a lasting impact on his undergraduate career.

 "I would stop in the office and talk for about 10 to 20 minutes just about regular topics: taking the right classes or making sure I wasn't taking a class that didn't pertain to my degree," Birdwell explained. "They were helpful and gave me confidence in my degree plan."

For Birdwell, the experience was informal, yet very informative. "My first advisor actually switched departments and he still sent me an updated degree plan. I didn't ask him for anything."

This type of attention makes for a great student experience and contrasts greatly with his experience with advisors at North West Vista.

"Whenever I would stop by the advising center, there was usually no one there," Birdwell stated.

Others like Brian Sarabia, a senior majoring in infrastructure assurance in the college of Business, take the advisory experience to a completely different level. "I have one specific advisor I speak with and I usually visit them at the beginning of the semester, as well as two to three times throughout the semester," Sarabia explained.

"I mostly discuss what classes I need to take, what grades I need to make and what I need to do to graduate."

Sarabia went on to commend the advising center within the College of Business, bringing up a specific moment when he was told about a reverse transfer program to get an associate's degree from St. Philips College, another Alamo College. "They get the job done effectively and quickly; they have a lot of walk-in hours which is great," Sarabia said.

While many students are satisfied with their advising experience, others have trouble finding the personal attention they seek in advisors. The student population at UTSA is quickly rising and outgrowing its limited advising resources. Some students are forced to wait weeks or even months before speaking with an advisor due to overwhelming student demand. Lauren Bruckner, a senior marketing major, said, "It takes two months to book an appointment. It is because they are always backed up with appointments."

 Students who would rather go the digital route will find a large database of information pertaining to their degree plans, along with information regarding specific actions and requirements for individual degree plans.

This is the case with Bryant Andrade, a second-semester freshman political science major. "They pretty much provide all of the information you need online," Andrade stated. "I really only went into the office to get rid of a hold I had and to ask questions about the summer law school program; other than that, the advisor just confirmed what I already knew." Andrade explained that he usually just follows his degree plan online and any questions he has are usually answered within the advising office's website.

"It's a great resource and [the information] is pretty straight-forward and not very confusing. I usually just stick with that."

The Undergraduate Advising website, which can be found under the Academics tab on UTSA's main website, contains links and resources that assist students with any questions they might have- everything from a basic degree plan for freshmen who are undeclared, to a section containing answers to frequently asked questions.

There is also a helpful list for identifying which particular advising center students will need based on their majors, accumulated credit hours and transfer status, along with basic contact information for each college's advising center.

Those interested in learning more about what advisors have to offer them may consult the academic advising syllabus, which outlines what plans advisors have in helping their students and lists the many ways an advisor can assist students.

With thousands of students who need advising within each college, it is important that students make appointments in advance. Scheduling regular time with an advisor ensures that students can receive academic advising to stay on track without getting lost in the crowd.


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