Montclair State University’s advising system made my last semester in college a living hell and I’m going to tell you why, but not without first giving a brief summary of my personal experience over the last four years.
Montclair State University transitioned from WESS in fall 2016 and traded in the dated platform for Degree Works and NEST. This was great news for everyone—except for students switching over after having used WESS, in my case, for three years.
WESS had an “Overview of Academic Analysis” which students could look at to keep track of courses and grades.
Students had options for how they wanted to track their progress toward graduation—depend on their advisors to help them choose courses, reference the university website for an overview of major and minor class requirements, cross-reference with WESS, or follow the skeleton of a sheet given to freshmen in an effort to balance core courses, electives and general education requirements over the course of four years.
My personal experience with advising began with the Center for Advising and Student Transitions (CAST) and eventually upgraded to the School of Communication and Media. Every semester, I chose to see my advisor at CAST along with seeing my assigned advisor in the College of the Arts.
I printed out every Academic Analysis, all the classes listed on the university website for my major and minor, continually sought the advice of faculty to know what was going on and what I needed, just to confirm or deny the work I already did myself. I thought Montclair State’s advisors were my “safety net,” there to sign off on my courses and ensure I was enrolled in the right ones.
Assistant Dean of the College of the Arts Linda Davidson detailed a specific “partnership” advisors and students should share: “What’s really important is that students meet with their advisors periodically rather than once freshman year and in their spring semester senior year when they’re ready to graduate and they realize they’re missing courses that they should have taken to graduate on time. So it’s really [a] partnership. Students should meet with their advisors frequently.”
In my case, I guess “frequently” would mean getting lunch once a week and sharing family photos because I was diligent with my class choices and was told each and every time that I was on track.
What I was not told was that I took Spanish 3 for no reason, a three-credit physical education class that ONLY counted for seniors in the class to fulfill the general education requirement that semester. Everyone else could take it up with the department.
I will be graduating with 127 credits, seven more than needed. I guess I just paid the school for fun. I planned to take eight credits for my last semester so I could focus on my internship and job. I was told in the fall that everything was good.
The day after the add/drop deadline, I checked Degree Works out of curiosity.
I took 18 credits for six semesters in order to graduate on time with my major in communication and media arts and minor in journalism. My senior year would be dedicated to getting internships and career experience.
This is when I found out I was not in the right classes and not on track to graduate. I had to re-arrange my entire schedule and add classes onto an internship, part-time job and position at The Montclarion, when I had originally planned for a part-time semester in order to properly manage all the activities I committed to.
I was originally told to drop the last class I had to complete my minor because I was advised that no would care about my major, let alone my minor. I had to drop two more classes, bump another class up in credits, and take an additional class mid-week during the time I would normally be at work.
I’m not the only one who feels this way, and I know for a fact that the advisor/student “partnership” is not to blame.
Senior sociology major Jessica Simeonoglou, 21, recently switched majors and they never gave her a new advisor, so when she went to Degree Works to contact her advisor, the advisor was for a different major and could not help her. She had to e-mail the head of the sociology department and then the secretary to find an advisor.
“I’m really trying to figure it out in terms of graduation,” said Simeonoglou. So it’s delaying me knowing if I’m going to graduate on time or not or if I’m going to be delayed so I’d like to know that sooner or later then have to wait to go through all of this process when in reality I should have had it when I switched in the first place.”
“With advising they don’t really attract the commuter students to do their scheduling first and as a transfer student they weren’t really clear on what credits were going to be accepted or not,” said 21-year-old Allisone Jacques. “I basically got pushed back a semester.”
“Now when it comes to scheduling…since I’m not a part of a school, I am not able to basically choose a major, so I don’t know what classes to take and basically, I have to guess,” said Jacques. “So when it comes to advising they are not clear in what you need to do to graduate on time or at least catch up.”
“I went to some random advisor when I transferred in and they were the reason I actually got into classes, thank goodness,” said 20-year-old undeclared sophomore Dane Burch.
“I don’t know his name, but he was such a help. My advisor this year, she is, I believe, still a student or a graduate student here. I went to sign for classes this semester and her response was ‘Oh—see I’m not really allowed to help you because you have to do it on your own,’ and I looked at her straight in the face and told her ‘you don’t know how to help me because you’re my advisor. You’re supposed to help me, you’re supposed to sit with me and tell me what I should take, help me find the classes that I should take, just kinda help me out. You’ve done none of that.’”
“Everytime I speak to her, it’s like talking to a wall she is completely clueless,” said Burch.