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Major maze

Advisers assist students to navigate academic pitfalls

Published: Monday, August 27, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, August 28, 2012 01:08

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Elyse Wudeck - The Battalion

With the fresh start of a semester every student, incoming and current, can agree that choosing classes and staying on track for graduation can be a difficult task. As students find themselves inundated with questions and concerns about degree plans, academic advisers provide guidance to help them make decisions for academic success.  
Vanessa Nordell, senior academic adviser in the department of biology, said while students hold the key to their own future, as an adviser she tries to direct and help them make more informed decisions.

“Students have a large responsibility since it is their own academic career.  It is my mission to guide them, and hopefully instill in them a sense of confidence and independence,” Nordell said.  “Every decision made in my advising office is their own, but I offer my own opinion and help them see multiple options.”

Nordell said students will learn many things throughout their college career. She said some tips advisers under her department and others will tell you are always attend class, develop strong study skills through different means, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. She said many students under their department change their majors while determining what degree plan is best suited for them.

“We try to make the degree plans easy to follow, but every now and then students are confused about the possibility of overlapping requirements with other areas of the core curriculum,” Nordell said. “I think many pick something like biology with the intent of pursuing medical school but are then shocked to learn that they must also study other rigorous sciences such as chemistry and physics, or they might be shocked to learn that, as science majors, we expect them to take more than one science course each semester.”

Nordell said she advises students to be aware of the coursework necessary for the degree and choosing the courses they find more in sync with interests.

 “Students generally do well in a field in which they have a strong interest and strong aptitude,” Nordell said. “I think if you are very strong in the liberal arts, like English, but want to become a cardiac surgeon, then pick English as your major and select necessary prerequisite courses for your electives.”

Nordell said advisers under their department encourage students to take advantage of the free tutoring resources at A&M. The Student Learning Center, Multicultural Services and Student Counseling Services are just few of many places on-campus dedicated to students seeking extra help.

Maha Ghyas, senior English major, said she attended free peer tutoring sessions from the Student Learning Center during her first year. She said the program changed her semester and recommends it to anyone seeking to strengthen their study habits.

“It was really easy to sign up for sessions online and see that there were people who could dedicate one-on-one time to help you,” Ghyas said. “I learned so much through the instructors, who were just actual students like me, and able to present the material in different ways from having already taken the class.”

Christine Woods, junior computer science major, is a peer leader for a C computer programming course. She said the service is free to students in beginner level programming classes and she enjoys the experience of helping others.

“We’re like SI leaders for students in programming classes. We stay in the labs whenever possible to help students with errors in their code and lead them to the best solution while helping them learn,” Woods said. “Students should know they’re not alone. Everyone has been through challenging classes and as a peer leader, I’m glad to know my knowledge from previous classes can benefit someone.”

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