Undeclared students need more comprehensive advisement

At orientation, students in most majors are given sample four-year schedules detailing when to take what classes. Some freshmen have their entire college career mapped out by the second week of school.   

But what about the students who have not yet selected a major? Unfortunately for them, USC lacks an advisement system comprehensive enough to address their unique needs.  

As spring semester registration approaches, undeclared students face the usual challenge: determining from two-sentence course descriptions which classes could potentially illuminate lifelong passions.

These students, however, are given little assistance in accomplishing this task.  They are told to fill general education requirements and take courses that sound “interesting.” But there is always a significant chance that the classes selected by these students will not inspire them, nor help them receive credit towards the majors they eventually choose.

USC could do much more to help undeclared students. For example, they could offer “course samplers” in which students would explore multiple fields of study during one semester.

They could also reform the advisement system itself. Currently, the university assigns advisors to undecided students based solely on their last names. Instead, they could split these students based on broader interests, such as humanities or the natural sciences—with one category reserved for those who are utterly lost. 

Alternatively, they could train or hire specialized advisors who focus solely on helping students discover their passions.

Given the frequency at which college students change majors, it is arguable that course selection is somewhat arbitrary for any first year student. But undecided students face additional disadvantages.

Because they are not plugged in to any particular department, they often miss out on special programs and other opportunities.  They are also unable to declare minors. Specialized advisors could help in these areas as well, by identifying programs of interest or unofficially advising students on courses required for minors they like.

In the meantime, however, students struggling to find that one class to illuminate their dreams can easily become disheartened. If the undeclared advisement program was strengthened to better support students, this issue could be eliminated.