I never planned on going to a big undergraduate school, especially one that boasted around 14,000 students. I was always more interested in classes that promised to be personal, one-on-one, dedicated to individual attention. That’s why it came as a surprise to my parents when the moment I stepped onto the Diag during my first official visit, and told my mom, “Yes. I’m coming here. Cancel the other college tours.”
Something happened to me at Michigan that day that assuaged my doubt–something that made me forget all about the private literary arts education I was so stubbornly set on. Since then, I’ve never turned back. With open arms I’ve welcomed packed-in dorms, 500-person organic chemistry lectures, overflowing Mason Hall stairways, and even the sad fact that to many of my professors I am only a number. To this day, I can say without a doubt that I don’t regret my decision to go to a big school. I believe its benefits far outweigh its drawbacks; however, I also cannot lie and pretend that I haven’t had days where I’ve faced its inconveniences head on.
One thing I find to be very frustrating about Michigan is the advising system. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that it is impossible for an academic advisor to be personal and invested in every single one of his or her students when he or she is responsible for hundreds of them. Nonetheless, I’ve had many unpleasant experiences with apathetic and unsupportive advisors who frankly seem like they’re waiting for me to finish my sentence so they can pass me off or refer me to the next unlucky consultant in line. I’ve also talked to more than a few classmates who’ve had the same experience but simply shrugged it off as something that needs to be endured.
I, too, used to be one of these annoyed yet largely indifferent students. I didn’t find it personally upsetting until this September when the lack of genuine concern my advisors had invested in my future almost made my study abroad education a huge waste of time and money. Before traveling to Dublin, Ireland last winter, I talked with my English advisor about what classes I should take at Trinity College in Dublin that would fulfill some of the requirements of my English major. Because I was specifically studying at Trinity solely for their prestigious reputation in English literary studies, I wanted to ensure I was taking the classes that were going to count for my major and assist me on my track to graduation. However, when I went to my advisor the December before my departure, she perused my Trinity course guide, told me that most of the courses looked okay, and then directed me to take the classes that interested me and then visit her when I returned to America to “see what I could do to make them count.” Though uneasy about this course of action, I figured that she knew what she was doing and everything would work out. Little did I know that when I eventually returned to Michigan, I would be referred to 3 different (new) advisors who would all tell me that out of the 16-credits worth of classes I took at Trinity, zero would transfer and thus, I wouldn’t be graduating on time.
To say I was livid would be an understatement. As I listened to each of my advisors apathetically shrug their shoulders and tell me there was nothing they could do, I almost regretted my decision to come to Michigan. However, I decided to take things into my own hands. I went straight to the head of the department, pleaded my case, sent her all of my email correspondences and bugged all of the advisors enough to the point where I think they just got sick of me and decided to write me pardons.
Thankfully, this story has a happy ending and all of my hard work in Dublin ended up paying off. Nevertheless, this post should serve as a warning to all that if we are not on top of our game and adamant that our advisors are giving us the best advice and not simply arbitrarily saying things he or she knows we want to hear, we can face the harsh consequences. Of course, as Michigan students, it is our responsibility to look out for ourselves and make our own decisions; I truly believe that we have to be aware of the drawbacks of the university so we can combat them and improve them for Michigan’s future students.
By: Emily Coyle
(Photo courtesy of sxc.hu)