Let counselors be your light house

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Many students get very distraught when faced with the confusion of planning to transfer. Each semester a new catalogue of classes is released, containing new requirements for degrees and transfers, making it very hard for a student to choose the best classes to transfer and move forward.

In order to make the best choices and achieve your goal, you must first have a plan–an educational plan. An educational plan is a document which helps new (and even continuing) students plan out their educational goals.

Jennifer Hughes, Dean of Counselors, refers to it as a “roadmap” for students to guide themselves by. She suggests that the best time to meet with a counselor to set up an educational plan is about two weeks into the semester, that way most students have settled down into a routine.

While organizing your plan, you and a counselor will address issues of balancing your amount of courses to amount of units, as well as discuss your career course or need for financial aid. You will also receive any extra documents such as transfer requirements.

The process is very student initiated and involved. If the student notices that their requirements are changing, he or she must be the ones to contact their counselor. The counselors cannot track down every student affected by a requirement change.

It helps to stick to one counselor that you keep in touch with so that you can build a history.

“[The educational plan] is a tool to connect with the student,” says Loretta Adrian, vice president of student services.

Not only should one keep in touch with their counselor, one should also stay continuously enrolled in classes. This helps because as long as you are continuously enrolled, even for just one unit per semester, you are only held accountable for the requirements you start with. But if you take a whole year off from classes, when you return you will have to fulfill new requirements. This policy is known as catalogue right.

But even with these safety nets, sometimes it’s not the requirements that change, but the actual classes get removed from the schedule. Before a class can be removed, the decision must go through a formal process held by the Curriculum Committee. They weigh out all the facts and research through majors and the number of students that would be affected. When classes are removed, a list is published and the catalogue is updated. If this happens mid-semester a catalogue supplement is published.

Since the Curriculum Committee is often hesitant to delete courses, when it does happen, they will then work with the deans to create a substitute course. That way, students aren’t thrown too far off track.

But this still depends on the student initiating the meeting with a counselor. This creates a communication problem, since there is no device to alarm students of the changes.

Many times there are courses that don’t necessarily get deleted, but simply moved off our campus to one of our neighboring ones.

“Sometimes it’s a matter of shifting resources,” says Adrian, “because there is a lot of duplication. Really, it’s about lessening duplication that exists, so that we have a greater capacity to offer a more comprehensive program,”.

These are primarily occupational programs, not transfer programs, since all the community colleges offer general education and most major transfer courses. But there is kind of an “agreement” that there would be no duplications of other programs.

“College of San Mateo has a nursing program,” Hughes says, “Skyline does not. But if a student wanted to be a nursing major, we would have the ability to work very well with the student to do a lot of their prerequisites to the nursing at Skyline and all their general ed. Then they’d transfer at some point to CSM to finish out their nursing courses. We work very collaboratively when there might be a major a student wants at another school”.

So in order to avoid the complications, make an appointment with a counselor, and create an educational plan for yourself. But don’t stop there be sure to meet with your counselor at least once each semester to keep yourself updated on any changes to class schedules and requirements.