One of the most useful services State Fair Community College offers may also be one of the least understood by its students.
Whether you’ve pinpointed your educational and career goals or have no clue where to begin, everyone should meet with an Advising and Resource Center (ARC) advisor, says Director Julie McNeal.
“ARC advisors help new, transfer, visiting, and international students enroll in their first semester of classes after they have applied for admission to SFCC,” she says. Returning students who have not been enrolled in classes for more than a year also need to visit with an advisor before continuing their coursework. Advisors are available at all SFCC locations.
After an initial meeting with an ARC advisor, each student is assigned a faculty advisor based on his or her major, says McNeal, who recommends students see their advisors at least once each semester.
Why? Advisors serve as guides because course requirements for degrees can be confusing. They can help with choosing a major, selecting classes and making a schedule. They also provide valuable transfer information, review records to make sure students stay on track and offer career advice. The ARC also offers personal counseling and disability services on request.
Advisor Abby Tribble, an SFCC graduate who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and is finishing her master’s degree, considers advising the foundation of student retention.
“We have a great team of advisors,” she says. “We build personal relationships with students; we remember their interests, majors and even the classes they’re taking. We want them to feel important because they are. Students respond to that personal connection.”
Tribble, 25, a first-generation college student from Clinton, tries to put students at ease about the huge step they’re taking by coming to college.
“Every student comes in with different anxieties,” she says. “It’s important to figure out what they’re most worried about, whether it’s financial aid, housing, moving away from mom and dad, or being able to keep up with homework. I try to help them realize they’ve already taken the biggest stop by applying and meeting with an advisor. I’ve been in their position and have had those same concerns. I can reassure them it’s going to be OK.”
Students who opt for “self advising” often run into trouble, says Tribble; they find they’ve taken courses they don’t need or have failed to take classes they do need. The result is wasted time, money and effort.
“At least a couple times a week I meet with a student who’s completely off track,” she says. “I listen to them and do whatever I can to help. When students think they’re going to graduate and find out they’re not, it’s a huge disappointment. We help them work through it and make a new academic plan. That’s the primary role of an advisor.”
To get the most out of advising visits, students should come prepared, says McNeal.
“Make a list of questions before you arrive,” she says. “Students don’t have to have decided on a major, but if they have something in mind, it helps the advisor. They should ask questions like, ‘How long will it take me to complete this degree?’ ‘What will my schedule be?’ ‘Is it flexible?’ ‘How many hours do I need to take?’”
Advisors help students explore all their options, which can sometimes lead to unexpected outcomes. McNeal recalls one nontraditional student who had always worked in a factory. Her advisor told her about the Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) program and how she could earn additional “stackable” certificates to move up the career ladder.
“She tried the classes, and said, ‘I love it! Sign me up!’” says McNeal. “Today she’s employed as a CNA and is taking classes toward an associate degree. I’m really proud of her.”
To get started at SFCC, get your education on track or even discover a life-changing interest, apply today! Once your application is complete, you will be scheduled for an appointment with an ARC advisor.
Advising and Resource Center
William C. Hopkins Student Services Center on the Sedalia campus
(660) 530-5831 or (877) 311-7322
(toll free in Missouri)