The Connector’s declassified advising period survival guide

Hannah Manning
Connector Editor

Tensions are running high. The exams are ramping up in intensity, papers are getting assigned one after another and none of the vending machines seem to be accepting cards.

To add to all of that existential stress, it just so happens to be the merriest time of the semester: advising period. For those uninitiated, advising refers to the period of two weeks in which students prepare the classes they would like to register for the following semester.

This year, the advising period runs from April 2 to Apr. 17. Registration holds are removed on April 10 for students in the Honors College, while the rest of the students at UMass Lowell have to wait until the April 17.

Before any student begins to bite their fingernails off from the stress of confronting their future, they may wish to look around for several resources on campus – namely, their peers.

15 students ranging in majors from mechanical engineering to creative writing responded to an online informal survey about their advising habits. The students were asked to answer questions about phases of the advising process, from whether they attend meetings with their advisors to their own strategies for choosing classes.

All of the participants were upperclassmen with two sophomores, nine juniors and two seniors.

Out of that group, most students wrote that they attended meetings with their advisors – only two of the 15 wrote that they did not go to advising.

That can be explained for some majors such as nursing, chemistry or engineering, where much of one’s classes are preset and there is little room for deviation in the degree pathway. Some students in those majors may feel as though they do not need to meet with an advisor if they already know which classes they need to take.

“With engineering, it’s pretty standard for what classes are taken when. Just need to double check that you’ve met the prereqs and you’re in a good spot with gen eds,” wrote David Paluzzi, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering and mathematics.

But others feel that the system in place is not helpful. Brooke Parziale is a sophomore psychology major who backloads her schedule so that she can graduate early. She says that she mostly self-advises, because she knows what she needs to take so she can tailor that into her plan.

15 students ranging in majors from mechanical engineering to creative writing responded to an online informal survey about their advising habits. The students were asked to answer questions about phases of the advising process, from whether they attend meetings with their advisors to their own strategies for choosing classes.

All of the participants were upperclassmen with two sophomores, nine juniors and two seniors.

Out of that group, most students wrote that they attended meetings with their advisors – only two of the 15 wrote that they did not go to advising.

That can be explained for some majors such as nursing, chemistry or engineering, where much of one’s classes are preset and there is little room for deviation in the degree pathway. Some students in those majors may feel as though they do not need to meet with an advisor if they already know which classes they need to take.

“With engineering, it’s pretty standard for what classes are taken when. Just need to double check that you’ve met the prerequisites and you’re in a good spot with gen eds,” said David Paluzzi, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering and mathematics.

But others feel that the system in place is not helpful. Brooke Parziale is a sophomore psychology major who backloads her schedule so that she can graduate early. She says that she mostly self-advises, because she knows what she needs to take so she can tailor that into her plan.

“Sometimes the advisors are little help so I personally find it easier to look at my advisement report myself and decide what classes I need to take to fill requirements,” said Parziale.

Dr. Melissa Pennell, a professor in the English Department, said that she typically only sees one to two students a semester for advising, despite emailing all of her advisees in advance of the period. She adds that in addition to the one or two in-person appointments, she will have several students who elect to check in with her via email to make sure that the classes they plan to take the next semester are appropriate according to their degree pathway.

For those socially awkward or particularly busy students hoping to dodge in-person appointments, the subjects suggested using the advisement report that can be found in a student’s SiS account. The report will list requirements that have not been fulfilled as well as suggestions for classes that may fit that bill.

Anna Mayorskiy, a junior majoring in English, wrote that after she checks her required classes, she uses the English Department’s course description sheet to help her decide what to take.

Junior English major Kassy Edouard and junior nursing major Geoff Rowe write that they swear by the website Rate My Professor to help them in their pursuit for classes. Edouard said that she takes the time to submit reviews for professors herself in order to keep information on those instructors current.

Beyond making sure that the professor is compatible for what a student wants, it is likewise essential to stack one’s schedule in a way that makes life as easy as possible.

“Plan ahead. The earlier you knock out gen eds the more freedom you will have in your schedule towards the end of your four years,” said Paluzzi.

Junior history major Daniel McDermott has a method to scheduling his classes per semester. “I always try to make my schedule half general requirements and half classes for my major or an elective. I first plug in my requirement classes first then I can determine what classes I can pick from for my major,” he says.

One of the most common problems that the students expressed in their answers was maneuvering time conflicts. A student’s worst nightmare is having the one class that they need to graduate clash with every other class that the student may want to take.

“Too many times have I wanted to take a class but it conflicted with another class I needed more,” said junior english major Steph Morris.

McDermott suggests that students have two or three backup classes that they may want to take in case there is a conflict with time.

“I always give priority to the class that isn’t an 8 a.m.,” said McDermott.

Jacob Matsubara, a junior English major, emphasizes the need for students to enjoy the classes that they are taking. A big part of doing so rests in taking classes with some familiar faces.

“[I] find out what I need for requirements, then find out what my friends are doing for classes. Try to make those overlap as much as I can,” said Matsubara.

Those with restrictive majors can breathe a sigh of relief; since their degree pathways are so rigid, there is a high chance that they will be taking the same courses that their friends are.

Despite all of the friendship coordinating, scheduling gymnastics and stress, Pennell stressed that advising is much more useful than students may realize.

“Advising can be an important thing, and it doesn’t have to be about classes,” Pennell said. She stresses that advising can be used for discussions on graduate school, careers and also to connect with a faculty member in the department.

Those students who did utilize advising generally praised the process. McDermott said that he considers professors to be a valuable resource on classes that are both beneficial to his degree and fascinating.

Although speaking with advisors and getting one’s schedule perfect can be gratifying once the process is done, but that is not to say that it does not take a toll of stress on the student. One piece of advice shines for any student wondering where exactly they may have gone wrong.

“Don’t go to college, kids,” said Matsubara.

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