Topic from June 2004

This month, the Advising Forum presents the eighteenth in a series of advising case studies.

Case study #18: At your institution, new first-year students can be admitted directly to the Communications major. Other students not admitted directly can apply later, provided they have three letters of recommendation and a 3.00 overall GPA. The Communications Department has asked all academic advisers to tell potential Comm majors to take Comm courses but to have a back-up plan in case Comm doesn't work out.

Abram wants to be a Comm major. Semester after semester, he has fallen just below the required GPA, earning good grades in Comm classes but struggling a bit in the core requirements. Comm professors with whom he's studied have no problem signing him into Comm courses, telling him how great he is in class and that he'll “get into the major eventually.” Now he has taken all required Comm courses except for senior seminar and the required internship, but doesn't qualify to declare the Comm major. Worse yet, friends of his who were admitted directly into the Comm major are allowed to remain in the major with less than a 3.00 GPA. “It's not fair,” he tells you, asking you what you think—and what you might do for him. What would you do in this case, and why?

Your Responses
I would have Abram write a short statement to the dean explaining his situation and why he feels this is unfair. His answer should provide strong logic as well as his particular situation with his classes. Why is he unable to achieve the necessary requirement? Is it poor study habits, unrealistic expectations, etc? A good adviser will help him realistically assess why he is unable to do this. Sometimes the answers are hard to handle. I work at a college that happens to have a very competitive business program. If Abram needs a 3.0, he needs to get that; if not, he needs to move on.

-Scot Schoenborn, Arizona State University, June 4

I would recommend that Abram do the following: (1) contact the professors that he's had classes with (and done well) in the Communications Department to have them write letters of support for his switch into the major; (2) set up an appointment in person to meet with the department chairperson in Communications to explain his situation and provide his supporting documentation stating his case to switch; and (3) if the department chairperson decides against his switch, take his appeal to the dean of the college/school.

If none of these situation works in his favor, I would try my hardest to find a program that may provide him a means to graduate on time—or worse, a semester late—that closely resembles his interest. If it's an institution that has a liberal studies degree, I would recommend that he finds a way to contour the program based on his interests. Of course, it would be a shame to have a student get to that point in his (or her) academic career and not be able to pursue his or her interests. The best case would have been to have Abram take courses in two different areas. That way he wouldn't be caught short—but that's after the fact!

-Bill Johnson, The College of New Jersey, June 7

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