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Many college students struggle to choose a major, but better advising could help with that.

VSU seeks to advise students better

“I’ve known what I want to do in life since day one, so the problem wasn’t me,” Marissa Roper, a sophomore majoring in health science said. “I changed my major because when I went to advising the first time, they told me one thing and then the next time I went they told me another. I’m going to school to become an anesthesiologist and started off in nursing but now in healthcare science. I just kind of feel like if I would’ve got the correct advice the first time, I wouldn’t have wasted most of my freshman year.”

Over 70% of all freshmen and sophomores across the nation are still in the process of deciding on a major. Students changing their majors late can lead to a delayed graduation and impact their chances of finishing school. The longer students take to achieve their graduation, the more money they will spend on extra classes and miss out on career opportunities.

The VSU advising team is here to help students avoid these same problems by helping students select a major fit for them, informing them of their major and helping them register for classes in their selected pathways.

Rob Freidhoff, executive director of advising, said that he is a huge believer in making sure VSU hires advisers who are truly invested in making sure that the students are successful.

“It’s hard to fake the interest in wanting to make a difference” Freidhoff said. “We’re looking for people who have had experiences with higher education in some form or fashion. Hearing about what gets them excited about advising, what they believe advising to be and making sure that meshes with our philosophy. Our framework is what’s called appreciative advising.”

Appreciative advising comes out of appreciative inquiry, which Friedhoff is nationally involved with. It puts students and advisors in a collaborative partnership to ensure that students will get the most out of VSU.

Friedhoff also said advising plays a huge role in listening to students and stresses that advising is always available beyond registration.

“We’ve spent a lot of time in the two years that I’ve been here really trying to get advising to not be only thought of as registration, but really thought of as a conversation that helps students make a career ready decision,” Freidhoff said.

It’s no secret that many VSU students have changed their major, but the question remains on what made them change their decision. It appears that some students were not thoroughly informed before pursuing their major.

“I came to VSU as an exercise physiology major and I hated it,” Taylor Lewis, a junior majoring in anthropology said. “The science classes didn’t interest me. During my first semester of sophomore year I took intro to anthropology and I was hooked so I changed my major. In my case, there wasn’t much that could have been to avoid changing my major, but I do wish I would have come in as undecided.”

With so many students in their first and second year of college constantly changing their major, VSU has strategically come up with their own strategies to assist their advisors and students.

“The departments have done a great job at developing program maps that we’re able to share with students,” Freidhoff said. “That basically shows students from the point of entry and to the point of completion what courses they would be likely to take in each of the semesters. That’s actually available at a spot that’s pretty straight forward.”

VSU students are able to access program maps through valdosta.edu/programs and filter by major, minor and master’s program. The map provides details about the program, a list of careers to pursue in that program and a map of classes in each semester that will need to be taken.

Last summer VSU came up with a more efficient way to help students pick a solid major.

“We’ve decided to move to pre-enrollment surveys for orientation,” Freidhoff said. “In those pre-enrollment surveys, we ask quite a few questions about intended majors and careers and different things like that. When our teams would notice a difference between what a student would list for his or her major, and what they said they wanted to do career wise, our teams would actually reach out before orientation and have some conversations and just chat through what the student was wanting to do. If it made more sense to adjust a major, we would do so, or it may have just been that they weren’t sure on a career pathway yet.”

The advising team is very hopeful in what the new pre-enrollment surveys will do for VSU students and expect to see less changes in majors.

“That’s huge because then they can start out in a career pathway or a major pathway and don’t get part of the way down the program and then have to flip to something else, so we’re excited about that.”

Written by Kayla Pool, Staff Writer. Photo courtesy of The Spectator.

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