Advisement Isn’t Always Great Advice

woman sitting on top of a mountain

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post called “Women for Wakanda”, where I discussed how the Dora Milaje , a group of fearless women, that protected Wakanda, the throne of the Black Panther as well as themselves. These women stayed loyal to their personal beliefs, and their purpose no matter who stood in their way, or questioned their abilities. After writing this post I thought back to a time where I had to stay true to my personal beliefs, after getting some advice that made me feel uncomfortable and a bit discouraged. This moment in my life, where I questioned my ability occurred during my first few semesters of college.

When I first started college I wanted to become a Radiologist because I thought it would be the perfect field for me. I worked as hard as I could to get good grades to be accepted into the program, but I realized after numerous conversations with my mentor, and family members that the program just wasn’t for me. However, before I came to this recollection on my own I had an advisement session with a Professor in Fall, 2013. This professor took one look at my GPA and said to me you “should consider transferring to another University or Hospital” if  I wanted to continue in the major. Although I had almost completed all of my prerequisites for the program he advised me to either change my major or transfer out to another college entirely. As he continued to advise me, I was so upset that I made an appointment to be advised and I was given the advice to leave a major that I wanted to be in so bad.

Can you imagine dreaming to join a profession and then having those dreams crushed by someone who tells you, you can’t do it? Well, let me be the one to tell you that the feeling is horrible in the moment, and it will be one of the moments where you feel insides turn, and your heart will drop a bit. However, the positive part of this advisement session is that I learned, that sometimes in life you can’t let other people dictate how you should plan your path to success.  I also learned in that moment that the negative experience I had during my advisement session was just a minor setback for a major comeback. I realized that in my own time, and at my own pace I would figure out where I was supposed to be and what major would be a suitable fit for me.

After that advisement session, I didn’t immediately change my major. Rather, I discussed the issues that I was having with my family , and then my mentor at the time, and they informed me about a few majors that may be more suitable to my skill set. After researching the majors she provided to me, I finally stumbled upon the Professional and Technical Writing major. After reading the degree requirements for the major, and the coursework I would have to complete I decided that I would try this major out. Since entering this major I have never been happier with the required coursework, as well as the professors I interacted with. Not only have I learned an abundant amount of information from my professors, but I also have great advisers.

Since joining this program, all of my advisement sessions left me feeling excited, full of pride and most of all supported by the faculty in my school. Unlike advisement that I have had in the past, the advice that I have received since becoming a part of this program has encouraged me to do my best, and made me feel as though the professor I was conversing with actually cared about my future. Each adviser that I spoke with took a significant amount of time out of their busy schedule to spend time with me. They went over my degreeworks with me, and they asked me about my goals and aspirations for the future. They also spoke to me in an inviting tone that didn’t make me feel uncomfortable or like they were rushing to get me out of their office. Our conversations may have been brief, but they were enlightening and they helped push me to do the best that I could each and every semester.

I think that a major issue I have with the advisement process is the way that some advisers convey their personal opinions about a student’s academic success. As students we are still looking for guidance, and we can be very impressionable. Advisers are our map that helps us navigate through the difficult world of academia. If we as students receive advice that negatively impacts our confidence, there is a possibility that those words can potentially be very harmful to our work ethic and our interest in school. I know that professors are busy, and advisement adds an extra load to the work they have to complete but I do wish that the quality of advisement could be amazing throughout all majors, regardless of a student’s success rate.

If I could suggest some basic improvements for the advisement process, they would be:

  1.     Advisers should smile more often and seem interested in the student in front of them even if the student’s GPA isn’t up to standard.
  2.     Advisers should provide more options for struggling students rather than telling them they should consider other majors or other schools.
  3.      Advisers shouldn’t express the negative thoughts or opinions they have about a student’s academic career, and if they do, they should present their ideas in a manner that is appropriate and befitting the situation.
  4.     Lastly, advisers should have empathy, and consider how difficult life might be if they were in the students shoes they are currently advising. This suggestion is really important in my opinion because in life it’s not always about what you say, but how you say it. In my experience an advisement appointment can turn into a catastrophic event really quickly depending on the advisers attitude, and the way that they convey the information to the student they are advising.

My reason for bringing this experience to your attention is to let you know that I have faced adversity in my life and I surpassed it. I know that it may be difficult to move past negative feedback, or criticism because words hurt. However, people’s personal opinions, no matter what position they hold do not define who you are, and what you are capable of. I left that advisement meeting feeling negatively about myself and my promise. However, if I had listened to the adviser and left the college to change programs, I would never had found out that I’m really passionate about writing. If I had listened to what my adviser at the time said I may not have taken courses that afforded me the opportunity to get my essay published in City Tech Writer and to win a prize at The Literary Arts festival. I also may not have become a member of The Futures Initiative Program and The CUNY Pipeline Program, which have been pivotal in my success as an academic.

My decision to stay in New York City College of Technology and struggle to find my promise, helped me discover my passion. What I’m really trying to say in this essay is you can listen to the advice that people give you, but you don’t have to follow what they say. There are a lot of people in the world who will tell you how they feel, and what they feel you should do with your life. You have to know for yourself what you want, and if their advice benefits you. Don’t let people say things to you that will make you stray from your path. Follow your own mind, and remember not all advisement is actually applicable advice.

Now that I have shared my story with you, let me know have you ever been in a position where someone told you that you couldn’t do something? How did you feel? How did you handle this situation?

4 thoughts on “Advisement Isn’t Always Great Advice

  1. Cherishe I had this exact same experience at John Jay college when my advisor suggest I drop out when I told her I was pregnant. I even had this experience at city tech when a professor told me I can’t work, go to school and be a single mom at the same time. He told me I wasn’t being realistic and I needed to take less classes or I’d fail out. FYI- I graduated. I agree advisement is usually not as helpful as it should be. But there are great mentors in PTW which I’m so thankful for

    • Sam,

      Thank you so much for sharing your experince with me. I can’t tell you how many times I went to an advisement appointment and I left feeling worse than when I entered the office . I’m so happy that you knew who you were , and what you were and still are capable of . You are an inspiration and I wish you continued success in all your endeavors. ❤️

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