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Good advising central to successful four-year plan

It seems as though more students than ever have the distinct pleasure of attending USF for slightly longer than the four years their parents did. I am one of the blessed ones.

When I said goodbye to the Oracle in late April, I was unclear about my destiny – specifically graduation. Luckily for me, though, USF wasn’t done molding my future.

My family and friends have their own notions about why I am continuing my tenure with the University – some explanations a little more reasonable than others.

My mother fully believes it has to do with the state university system trying to suck every last penny from my not-so-deep pockets, but my friends believe it’s from working a job that ensured I would spend 4 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. every evening in a basement, writing about the college experience.

Sure, a large portion of this issue is my own fault. Maybe I should’ve concentrated more in a few more of my classes and possibly worked less, but a significant part of it can be chalked up to a lack of advising.

In my college we have two advisors, and while the English department may not have one of the largest student followings, I think the University could dig a little deeper to ensure that there is sufficient staff to serve that following.

Sadly, I know I am not alone in this experience. Several of my peers have joined me on this five-year journey, and compared with some of the horror stories I’ve heard from them, I am relatively lucky. Between poor class scheduling and incorrect advising, several of my close friends will also have to put off donning cap and gown until August.

I can’t help but wonder what the University’s graduation rate would look like if each college took notes from the Honors College.

Incoming freshmen in the Honors College go through multiple levels of advising before picking their schedules. They not only sit with professional advisors, but also with a peer advisor who has the experience to help guide them through the process.

After one professional-advising session and one student-advising session – the latter overseen by other professional advisors to confirm that all courses are properly selected – the student is ushered into his or her collegiate experience, putting a vast majority on the utopian four-year plan.

The University has said that they recognize the issue and are working on new strategies to put all students, regardless of college, on the right track from day one.

Last year, the administration said that USF has begun to implement new methods of advising to ensure that fewer students slip through the cracks.

When new students go to orientation each semester, they are asked to pick a major. Shortly after, they are given an exact list detailing the classes they need and in which semester they need to take them to guarantee a swift four-year graduation.This is a wonderful concept, but it really isn’t helpful unless one was born after 1987.

It is also dependent on the student choosing to stay with his or her major, which rarely happens. If the major is changed, then the student will find themselves spending at least a week getting the paperwork filed and becoming adjusted to their new advisor. And then it’s back to the drawing board. A quality advisor is simply more helpful than a static road map, particularly one that advises freshmen to take 18 credit hours.

It will be hard to gauge the productivity of such a program after just a single year in use, but one thing is almost certain: If even half as much effort was put into realigning the University’s advising system as was put into setting up the previous year’s orientation system, hundreds more students may have walked across that stage two weeks ago.

So, for all of us lifers, I guess the only answer is that we’re just too “experienced.” So it’s up to us to figure it out by ourselves.

The new orientation system is only half a solution – the advising system should be improved if the University is serious about increasing four-year graduations.

Suzanne Parks is a senior majoring in British and American literature.