‘We Advise, You Decide’

JOSEPH RAVITS | THE SPECTRUM Kevin McCaul advises his students in the right path toward academic success.
Kevin McCaul advises his students in the right path toward academic success.

Registering for next semester’s classes can be a tough task for some and a walk in the park for others. Some seniors are simply following the schedule they’ve had laid out since freshman year, while others are frantically filling up their schedule and time to get that one required class to graduate.

For freshman with a semester already under their belt, registering could be welcomed adjustment to an overly packed schedule or a different path of study. It could also be a reality check to see what impact not showing up for class can have on grades.

No matter where you’re standing in your classes or what the question or problems you have, advisers cannot emphasize enough importance of stopping by to talk over your academic life.

Most believe the main service advisers offer is to help filling next semester’s schedule during Advising Week.

“But I don’t (think) that’s the main reason for advisers,” said Kevin McCaul, senior adviser of around 150 first- and second-year psychology students. “We’re here to help provide alternatives for students so they can finish their career here at NDSU with the best set of skills they can have.”

McCaul takes a holistic approach to his usual advising session, with the first few minutes devoted to what is going well with school and life to start on a positive note. He then moves on to struggles in specific classes and what can be done to fix the problems.

“From there, I’ll ask what are you thinking about doing this next spring semester,” McCaul said. “We work together on a schedule, but we have to also think long term, like what do you want to be when you grow up.”

One advantage McCaul believes he has working with students relatively new to NDSU and the psychology program is that he can work with them early to find what they truly want to study or how they want to get to a future career path.

“We’re giving them opportunities to explore their options and find what their passion is,” he said. “I can talk about a minor or a double major or things outside of classes that can be important like a research position or an internship.”

McCaul said about half of his advisees actually stop by to talk, and another 25 percent communicate their schedule over email. He wishes that the last quarter of students that don’t reach out for help would because advisers have the time — or make the time — for their advisees to talk.

Since his primary job is to advise students, McCaul has a larger pool of advisees, but for advisers for upper-level students, such as Psychology Associate Professor Ben Balas, they have a select few of only 10-15 students.

Balas said he brings more focus on making the next step to graduate school.

“Most upper-level students have questions about the grad school system and what makes a strong application,” he said. “We’ve been through the process ourselves and helped many students develop their plans for graduate school, so they should always consider talking with their advisor.”

“We advise, you decide,” McCaul said. “We give advice that can guide students onto the right path, but ultimately, it’s up to the student to take the advice and follow through with it.”

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