Right as the extremely busy and stressful period of pre-registration begins, the Vassar Student Association’s swooped in to try to make the tough choices a little easier by holding their annual Peer Advising event. Peer Advising is an event that features members of the junior and senior classes who are interested in giving back to help freshmen and sophomores who are struggling with pre-registering for classes and planning out their futures at Vassar. Hailing from almost every major offered at Vassar, the Peer Advisors are a very diverse group who have experienced almost everything Vassar has to offer.
Students who have spent part or all of their junior years abroad are there to offer their advice on programs and to help newer students plan for their own abroad experiences by scheduling the “right” classes. Students with double-majors, or those who created their own majors, help students who are thinking of doing similar schedules with their time and pick their classes properly. Meanwhile, students who are also athletes, dancers and musicians are able to pair up with students of similar interests who offer counseling and advice on balancing the rigors of academics with the physical and mental strains of athletics and performing arts.
According to Peer Advisor and computer science major Aaron Hill ’16, a main responsibility is to pass on their wisdom. When approached by students who expressed interest in their major, Advisors try to discuss the major and what it involves. “We talk about what attracted us to the major,” said Hill. “We tell them what we’re planning on doing with the major once we get out of school and how we’re working towards that goal here at Vassar. We try to help them figure out the best plan of classes for them to work towards their own goals and if they don’t have a clear idea of where they’re headed we do our best to give them some advice and support while they figure that out.” Peer Advisors help out where they can. They try to provide a slightly more approachable and—for some people—easier to talk to alternative for counseling than professors. The hope is that students will reach out more willingly to people around their own age and be more open with them.
Held in the Aula this year, according to the Vassar Student Association (VSA) website, over 120 students from both the sophomore and freshmen class attended the event, a statistic the VSA found extremely encouraging.
As part of a plan to get students to the event, the VSA provided free snacks and drinks to all attendees as an incentive. There was also a reward of Brewer House Cup points for the house that had the most attendees at the event.
The food and potential to help their house, along with the counseling, proved too some students. Hailey Steichen ’17 explained, “I got there a little bit late, but there were still quite a lot of people in the Aula talking with Advisors.” The Aula also provided a comfortable and easy-to-access location. With the way the room was set up students could easily spot where the Advisors with majors they were interested in were sitting and could approach them to sit down and talk.
Though there were a variety of Peer Advisors at the event, not everyone was able to find what they needed. One student, who preferred not to be named, was unable to find an advisor for a major that they were particularly interested in. “I know it’s tough because all the Advisors who were there were volunteers, but it would have been really nice if there could have been representatives from more majors there,” said the student. This same student, who was admittedly a sophomore and not in as great of a need of advising, also felt that much of what the Advisors were saying they had heard before from professors and major advisors. “I feel like [the Peer Advising] would have been a lot more helpful for freshmen who haven’t been through the pre-registration process before. For me at least, I already knew a lot of what I was being told because I’ve done it all before. It was still a great event; I think it really helped a lot of freshmen with choosing their majors and their classes.”
Though some people did not have the best experience with the event, others found it very helpful. Steichen said, “I thought the event was really good. It gave me a lot of insight on what courses I should take and when and who I should take them with.” She continued, “I think it made the whole process [of pre-registration] a lot easier. I was able to find the Peer Advisors I wanted to talk to without trouble and they were super helpful and nice about advising me on which courses to take and the best ways to manage my time.”
When asked how the event turned out, Vice President for Academics, and organizer of the event, Shruti Manian ’14, said, “Our main goal with peer advising is to provide underclassmen another avenue to find answers to their many academic questions. It helps to get some perspective from peers who have been through the same or at least similar processes themselves.” She continued, “Our main challenge for the year was to get peer advising more visibility on campus and have more underclassmen utilize the system. I think with this event we’ve managed to do that really well. Our goal for the rest of the year is to just keep the same momentum going.”
For students who were unable to make this event, the Majors’ Fair in the spring semester offers a very similar opportunity for getting friendly advice on picking and choosing classes. Also, according to Manian, the VSA is open to the possibility of hosting another Peer Advising event in the spring if students respond positively to this idea.