Campus & Community

Freshman advising draws lively crowds

3 min read

Students and administrators have declared Advising Fortnight a success. The two-week event organized by Harvard College marked the beginning of pre-concentration advising for the Class of 2010. First-years flocked to advising events — scores of them — held by every academic department and degree program, with attendance approaching 3,000.

“I can’t believe this has never been done before,” said Jackie Hsieh ’10 in an e-mail to the Freshman Dean’s Office. “I think this is a great opportunity for students to discover options they had never known about, and I think we will definitely be seeing changes in the sizes of different concentrations. I, for one, felt so lost before these two weeks and am now in love with two different departments. I never knew there were so many ways to combine sciences and humanities.”

Advising Fortnight began in early April with a kickoff event attended by 1,142 students in Annenberg Hall, and continued in concentration offices throughout campus with pizza and sushi parties, ice cream socials, small-group advising sessions, and one-on-one conversations. In these collegial settings, students listened to senior faculty extol the strengths of their departments and answer concerns voiced by prospective concentrators.

In years past, the calm of spring break provided a small oasis between the tension of receiving housing assignments and the anxiety of choosing a concentration. Thanks in part to this new initiative, the difficulties of choosing the right concentration have been ameliorated.

Academic administrators praised the event. In e-mails sent to the advising office, administrators enthused that their sessions “went beautifully” and were “a smashing success” in which meaningful advising took place and “pizza and ice cream were inhaled by all.”

The Advising Programs Office conceived of the two-week academic fair as an innovative way of enacting faculty legislation that required students to have “advising conversations” in their second term as preparation for declaring their concentration in the first half of their sophomore year. Advising Fortnight is the first of a series of initiatives designed to provide undergraduates with the information they need to select the right concentration for themselves.

When they return in the fall, the Class of 2010 will be able to hold more intensive conversations with concentration advisers as well as House tutors who will be trained in academic affairs in accordance with a residential advising program unveiled earlier this year. Sophomore advisers (paired with students based on academic interests) will work with House masters, resident deans, and sophomore advising coordinators to guide students to the concentration that fits best. Sophomore advisers will have information about their advisees’ experiences during the Advising Fortnight, giving students and advisers a good place to start in conversations about concentration choice.

“We could not be happier with the success of the event and the positive responses we’ve received from people throughout the Harvard community,” said Monique Rinere, associate dean of advising programs in Harvard College. “If the early responses are any indication, we can look forward to Advising Fortnight becoming a highlight of the year for freshmen as they make the first steps in one of the most important decisions in their academic careers.”

The sophomore advising program and Advising Fortnight are part of a broader initiative to improve advising throughout Harvard College that includes the launch of the Peer Advising Fellows program, the strengthening of the Board of Freshman Advisers, as well as the efforts of individual academic departments to assess and strengthen concentration advising.