Professors and Advisors: Shaping the College Experience

Last week was that wonderful week of the semester when we at Barnard get to pick classes for next semester. Program filing additionally is remarkable because it reminds me just how wonderful the professors are here at Barnard.

First of all, my favorite part of picking classes is scrolling through the course descriptions and professors. There are so many classes to choose from, and even though I clearly can’t take all of them, it is fun just to look at all the options. Once I am done reading every single course description, I pick out a few and look up the professors. It always amazes me what amazing reviews every professor has; it seems that every professor is “the best professor I have had at Barnard/Columbia.” I know this is logically impossible, but I think that says something about the professors Barnard attracts. The faculty is not only knowledgeable, but they care about each and every student as an individual. Most classes at Barnard are small (70% have 19 or fewer students), which allows for real communication and discussion with professors, but even in the big classes the professors are there for us. My roommate last year would always boast that in her Chemistry class of over 100 students, her professor knew every student by name. I also once got an e-mail from a professor saying she was sitting in her office during office hours and was sad no one stopped by. These are the professors we have access to. These are our teachers, our mentors, and our role models.

The other piece of picking classes is meeting with your advisor. Advising is one of those things that you really don’t think about when picking school, but good advising can really shape your college experience. At Barnard, you are assigned to an advisor for your first two years depending on your stated interests. As a sophomore, when you declare your major, you are assigned to a new advisor. When I declared my major, I walked in to the office of my new advisor and introduced myself. Her immediate response was “wonderful! Make an appointment. I want to hear your life story.” She meant it, and the next week I met with her and told her about my life and my goals both academically and beyond. Advising at Barnard is not just about a professor signing off to make sure you are fulfilling your requirements. Your advisor is there to give academic, professional, and personal advice both relating to classes and beyond. My advisor is a woman who I look up to and respect, and because she took those thirty minutes to get to me right at the beginning she is able to actually guide me along my academic path. As I said earlier in this paragraph, advising is often not even discussed in the college decision process, but I think it should because it says so much about the attitude and atmosphere surrounding professors and student/faculty relationships.