From Student to Service: An Adviser's Reflection

AdviseMI is an initiative of the Michigan College Access Network that works with AmeriCorps to place recent college graduates in Michigan high schools with low college-going rates. The advisers are trained to help students navigate the complex college exploration process, retake college admissions tests, apply to colleges that are a good match/fit, complete the FAFSA, secure financial aid, and matriculate to college.

Jasmin McGarrah is a first-year adviser who serves at Brethren High school and Casman Alternative Academy.

One of the most important things that I learned during my time in college is that you have to get connected. It is crucial to a student’s success that they feel valued and a part of their new community. As a college freshman, I felt the exact opposite. I did not get along with my roommate and I would travel home every weekend. I encourage my students to give themselves the time to acclimate to their new environment and get involved on campus. Initially, I did not give myself that adjustment period, but once I did, I realized that Central Michigan University (CMU) was exactly where I wanted to be. When we get involved in different groups or go to campus events, we allow ourselves the opportunity to meet new people and become familiar with our surroundings. Being comfortable and confident in where we are helps us have more energy and focus on the other things in our lives. Collegiate studies are hard on their own and it is much easier to manage them when our social lives are stable and secure.

During my initial meetings with students, I have them tell me what they are interested in and then choose an institution and show them the major. I encourage my students to look at the courses that are required in that program and read over the titles. Sometimes, we go into the descriptions and read about individual courses. This gives the students a better idea of what they are getting into and what they will be doing for that major. If they do not like the majority of what they see in the course list, chances are they would not enjoy that program. When they do find a program that they like or are on the fence about, I have them go to another institution’s page and look up their equivalent. This way, the student is able to compare them and see what is special about each program, as well as to demonstrate that each institution offers something a little different. I learned from changing my major, and then later dropping my concentration, that an understanding of one’s program is crucial. The work that we do up front often saves us a lot of time in the long run.

During the last month, I spent a few weeks helping a student create a four-year plan. She has decided that she wants to double major at Northern Michigan University. While I was at CMU, I was required to complete a four-year plan. I highly recommend this because it allows students to be prepared for each semester as well as their entire undergraduate career. There are some courses that are only offered during specific semesters and some are offered every other year. Because I made a four-year plan, I was able to see that I needed to take an extra class per semester my junior year so that I could spend an entire semester abroad. A plan also makes sure that you are on track for graduation and all of your requirements are being met.

Something that I think is overlooked, but valuable, are the services offered to students: from the tutoring services to the counseling center. During my sophomore and junior years, I used the counseling services. I was dealing with a lot in my personal life and it was interfering with my studies. The counseling services offered me the help that I needed. Because I was doing poorly in a couple of my classes, I spoke with my professors about what was going on, and they worked with me so that I would be able to pass my classes and still graduate on time. Institutions know that we are human, and as long as we advocate for ourselves, we can succeed.

I know that my experiences are mine alone and it is absolutely okay for each path to look different than others, but there is no rule book for college. There is no magical guide that gives us all the answers on how to be successful. This is why it is important to pass on the lessons that we have learned so that the next generation has a better start than we had.

Author: Jasmin McGarrah
Posted: March 26, 2019

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