Advising First-Year Students

For first-year students, the first advising period in the fall is critical to their notion of academic success in college. If they're already doing well, they need to know they'll be supported and challenged and that there are numerous opportunities for them to thrive at HWS. If they're struggling and haven't yet utilized campus resources, they need to be guided to you, their adviser and professor, to their First-Year Dean, to a coach, to the staff at Intercultural Affairs, and/or to the Center for Teaching and Learning where individual needs are addressed with great care and expertise. If they're teetering in the middle, uninspired, they might need some recommendations to engage in campus life and/or to develop stronger academic skills. If you sense that academic issues may the result of personal/psychological struggles, contact Robert Flowers.

One of the most important messages to repeat is: chances are good (unless their choices are outside the norm) they will not get their first or second choice of courses for the spring; this is the worst registration period they'll ever experience; and they need to concentrate on testing new academic ground, taking introductory courses that serve as pre-requisites, and addressing goals, not focusing on their intended major (with exceptions in majors where coursework is prescribed early). One course in a possible major/minor is always recommended for FY spring.

Most of the registration process is done on-line, but some must be done via forms and signatures delivered to the Registrar's Office.

If/when students cannot register for their preferences, they should register for FOUR courses and then drop any course(s) they don't want to take if/when they obtain a signature on an add/drop form.

Some professors are willing to approve and sign for "overloads" on registration forms before the semester begins; others are not. If permission is required for a course, students will not be able to register for that course on-line. The Registrars accept e-mail approval as a class "overload" signature from the professor.

Calm the worries of your anxious first-year students by generating some perspective on the registration process.

There are many curricular questions all of us cannot answer reliably. Please send the student to a professor or secretary who knows the answer.

Questions to Ask First-Year Students

Certainly, all areas of study and all student identities at the Colleges are significant. These advisers' questions represent areas of special need or areas that have been inadvertently missed in the past.

Is the student a named scholar?
As advisers we want to be proactive with our named scholars and think of what we can do to engage them with faculty. We might introduce them to particular faculty and alert your advisee's other instructors of the student's accomplishments.

Is the student an international student?
Is English an issue? Should he/she be studying English as a second language on campus? Make sure the student knows about the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and the support available.

Is the student an Opportunity Programs participant?
Check any registration changes with Jim Burruto.

Is the weekly schedule problematic?
All Tuesday/Thursday classes? Nothing on Tuesday and Thursday? No time for lunch?

Are the student's fall courses like the ones she/he indicated as a preference?
Compare to Course Preference Form; flag problems. Could they be placement decisions?

Is the student seriously interested in a health profession (e.g., medicine)?
Is she/he in Biology and/or Chemistry lab courses? If not, why not? Have the student speak to a Pre-Health Adviser.

Is the student interested in science (but not pre-health)?
Is she/he in a science course? If not, why not? Refer to science department faculty.

Is this student in a mathematics course?
If so, she/he should have taken the placement test on line. Test scores should be in the student's folder. Check to make sure placement is correct.

Is this student interested in engineering?
Please consult Professor Donald Spector, Physics Department

Is this student interested in architectural studies?
Please consult Stan Mathews, Art and Architecture Department.

Is this student in the right language course? Does the student plan to go abroad?
Check language placement list against course registrations. Which language should she/he pursue?

Is the student an Arts Scholar?
If so, be sure she/he is registered for a full-credit arts course and/or an ensemble.

Does the course preference form indicate MUS 9XX or DAT 9XX courses?
These are half-credit courses that can be taken as a 5th course. If students are interested, register them for the MUS 9XX or DAT 9XX courses. Make sure music students know about fees for private lessons and how to get signed up for times. Dance technique can also be taken as a full academic course under DAN 9XX. For placement, consult with a faculty member in the Dance Department.

Is this student interested in literature courses?
Encourage students to consider foreign literatures in translation courses.

Advising Issues for First-Year International Students

  1. Language! Sometimes their English proficiency as reflected in their TOEFL scores does not accurately reflect their real ability. Encourage a visit to CTL to see what they can offer, particularly a Readers College.

  2. Culture! Educational differences, teaching methods, the concept of plagiarism, classroom culture - these all come into play when working with international students. We touch on some of this during our orientation but as first-year advisers, if you can focus on this a bit more with your international students, it may prevent some issues from arising further down the road.

  3. Full course of study. These students are here on an F-1 visa. That visa means that they are here to study full time in a US institution. Failure to maintain a full course of study is grounds for an automatic termination. Not maintaining a full course of study could be:
    • registering for less than 12 credit hours (3 courses)
    • dropping below 12 credit hours by withdrawing from a class or two
    • stop attending classes-this means, that in accordance with the specific attendance policy as set forth by that specific instructor. For example, If a student is enrolled in 4 courses and they violate the attendance policy in 2 of their courses, they would be considered "out of status" and I would have to terminate them in the SEVIS (US government)record. If, however, they violated the attendance policy of 1 course, they would still be OK because they would be considered to be taking 3 classes which is the minimum they could take to be considered full-time according to the US government

    • An F-1 student SHOULD NOT drop any course before contacting me first to ensure that by dropping this course they have both permission from their adviser/Dean and the international student adviser and that they are not below 12 credit hours. It is also a way for me to emphasize to them the importance of maintaining their status.

    • There are specific reasons as set forth in the federal immigration regulations that allow an F-1 student to drop below 12 credit hours. They all have to do with issues of acculturation and language problems. If the student falls into one of these categories, then I can authorize them to drop below full-time. This has to be authorized by me and entered in the SEVIS system (a federal on-line data management system for US institutions) within 21 days of this change. This can only be used ONCE during a student's undergraduate career.

For more information about advising first-year international students, please contact:

Marylyn O’Hora Uhnak
Associate Vice President and Director of International and Transfer Admissions
(315) 781-3750


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.