Currently, students are merely assigned an adviser who is affiliated with their residential college and whose interests broadly overlap with those of the student. Because a vast majority of students meet with their advisers only twice a year for course approval, ties between the students and their advisers remain weak.
Both the University and students have an interest in strengthening these ties and increasing students’ exposure to their advisers. This exposure can be greatly advantageous to the quality of advising: if an adviser understands a student’s academic goals and career aspirations, he or she can provide more meaningful guidance on coursework and other Princeton opportunities. If advisers are able to give their students better guidance, their advisees will be more eager to use them as a resource throughout the semester.
Presently, the University is undertaking a pilot program in which freshman seminar professors also advise the students in their respective seminars. This program was initiated because, like this Board, the University was worried about the lack of contact between advisers and advisees. Currently, six of the 48 freshman seminars are involved in this program and the results have been generally positive. Because freshmen seminars are held frequently and in smaller settings, students and their professors are able to learn about each other. Both the professors and students taking part in this pilot program indicate they feel very comfortable in the advising setting. Through the freshman seminar, professors can learn their students’ personalities and understand which courses would be appropriate for them. Even if students are taking a seminar that does not correspond to their specific academic interests, having a close relationship with their adviser will allow them to engage in more constructive discussion about their course choices and other academic goals.
However, there is work also to be done to improve peer advising. Like faculty advisers, peer advisers are assigned through students’ residential colleges, but, after the first weeks of the semester, contact between advisers and advisees becomes limited. This lack of contact is a key reason for the ineffectiveness of Princeton’s peer advising system.
Accordingly, this Board supports the institution of a few mandatory meetings in which peer advisers would meet with their advisees. These meetings can be in informal settings where freshmen meet for 10 or 15 minutes at a time with their advisers to discuss student life and academic goals. Students can greatly benefit from speaking to peers who have wide-ranging experience with student life and who can answer questions about course selection, internships and other relevant topics. Overall, this combination of a reformed faculty and peer advising system would greatly assist freshmen not only in their course selection process but would allow freshmen to make more informed decisions throughout their first year.