By Allisyn Keyser
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, September 19, 2005
Ah, freshman year. Many of us look upon it nostalgically, reminiscing about the good times we had getting drunk, getting laid and getting smarter.
For some, freshman year was a bit of a reality check, complete with harder classes, no homework to cushion the horrible test grades and independence regarding what courses to take.
However, the UA administrators try to ease the intensity of freshman year by providing many resources to ease the transition between high school and college. Orientations over the summer help familiarize incoming freshman with the new collegiate environment. Here freshman are introduced to academic advisers who will help them successfully achieve their academic goals, and students receive a four-year planning calendar with the catchy “Finish in Four!” phrase printed on almost every page.
The theory behind the Finish in Four program is that any UA student, in any major, can earn enough academic credits (usually 120, though this amount varies for different majors) to graduate with a degree within four years.
However, because the average undergraduate takes 4.7 years to complete his or her degree program, this theory is obviously flawed. Do students take longer than the expected time to graduate because the university neglects to provide sufficient academic resources? Or is it more a case of students simply lackadaisically going through college, caring more about living the college life than graduating on time?
At first, it is easy to blame the big bad university for many students’ delays in graduating. For example, because classes are typically so full, students often have to put off taking necessary prerequisites, which results in more time needed to graduate. Also, with such a huge variety of majors available on campus, it is difficult to narrow one’s focus down to simply one or two concentrations.
However, blaming the UA for not graduating on time is like blaming McDonald’s for personal obesity: unfair and unfounded. In fact, there are so many resources designed to help students finish in four years that faulting the UA is somewhat asinine.
Advisers in all colleges provide their students with four-year course planning tools, which outline which classes need to be taken in each semester in order to graduate in four years. These course planning tools account for both university general education requirements and individual college requirements and are easy to follow.
Additionally, almost all of the residence halls, as well as some fraternity and sorority houses, have faculty fellows, which are professors from around campus who allow for student-teacher interaction in an informal, non-classroom setting. The program was designed to help students adjust to college as well as teach them how to make good decisions in regard to their education.
However, neither excellent advising nor increased student-teacher interactions can be beneficial if students do not take advantage of them. Many students don’t even know who their adviser is, let alone how to get in contact with them, because they simply are not motivated enough to take control of their education.
This is a problem that the UA tries to minimize, especially in the Eller College of Management, in which 98 percent of incoming freshman take a class called Intro to Success. The class is attended not only by the students, but also by many of the advisers in the college. This gives students the opportunity to meet and get to know their advisers with virtually no effort required on their part; all they have to do is simply go to class.
Another factor that contributes to delayed graduation times is scores on placement tests taken upon being admitted to the UA. For example, if a person tests into math 110 but needs to pass math 129 before taking classes for their major, there is going to be a significant setback in terms of when he or she graduates.
Low placement test scores are becoming even more of an issue recently, because of a visible decrease in high school graduation standards, meaning that many students come to college not academically prepared for the level of knowledge they will have to be responsible for.
For some people, graduating on time is not a big deal; they don’t mind taking their time and making sure they are getting what they want out of college.
However, for those who do aspire to complete their degree program in four years, it is a more realistic goal than it seems. All that is required is a little bit of effort and a lot of motivation. The resources are available; we just need to capitalize on them.
Allisyn Keyser is a junior majoring in physiological sciences and creative writing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.