As a former academic advisor, I sadly remember many instances when students, typically sophomores and juniors, would leave my office discouraged, frustrated and sometimes angry. As a general practice during my meetings with students I would review their class schedule and progress report with them and often note that they had made some needless errors.
Perhaps they were enrolled in a course that filled a general education requirement but failed to meet a requirement for their major not realizing that one existed which satisfied both. Often they were enrolled in courses that really didn’t satisfy any requirements. Frequently they had made the decision to drop a class without realizing that they were then no longer eligible for their scholarship or even for on-campus housing. These errors were all too frequent, many times costly, and almost always avoidable.
I would generally ask them how they arrived at a particular decision to take a class (or not take a class), drop a class, etc. All to often they would tell me that they were operating under the advice of either a parent who graduated from BYU or an older sibling or roommate currently attending the university.
Since I am a parent, sibling, and have been a roommate, I would gently, and with empathy, talk to the student about how those who gave them advice were well meaning and didn’t intentionally try to lead them astray. Then I would re-enforce the idea that BYU, along with its many majors and programs is a complex, dynamic institution. Requirements, policies, and class offerings change frequently. It is even conceivable that siblings could be in the same major and yet have different requirements depending on when they declared that major.
Fortunately, students have individuals available to them whose role at the university is to be an informed and trained guide. Academic and other advisors, First-Year Mentoring peer mentors, faculty and staff know university policy, can access student records when needed, and can help students make informed decisions based on their unique situation.
I understand that parents and siblings want to be helpful and have learned a lot from their time at the university. There are many ways in which parents and others can assist and support a new student at BYU. Please allow me to make a simple and helpful suggestion. If your son or daughter comes to you for advice about registration, credits, requirements or other “technical” aspects of the BYU experience, consider asking them if they have spoken with their peer mentor or academic advisor.
Every first-year student has a peer mentor assigned to them, however, students might not know that their mentor can answer questions about class registration, General Education requirements, and many other facets of the undergraduate experience. These mentors are trained, supervised, and know how and when to refer to other experts when needed. Peer mentors are students themselves and are often available by email, phone, texting, and in face-to-face visits outside of normal office hours. Parents, you too can contact the First-Year Mentoring office with questions about all aspects of your student’s transition to university life.
We look forward to seeing your student on campus soon. Until then, watch for information from our Pre-Arrival Peer Mentors to help your student prepare for arrival and make the most of their BYU experience. Welcome to BYU!
Dan Chandler is the Assistant Director of First-Year Experience.