Counseling and advising department aims to help students with career planning

Scott Barnes

Staff Writer

Planning a college career can be a daunting task, especially for those students who aren’t familiar with the process. But the Parkland College Department of Counseling and Advising is here to help guide students and ensure they make good use of the time they spend at Parkland.

That process begins as early as student orientation.

“If they’re new to college they’ll be seeing us through the SOAR process, which stands for Student Orientation, Advising and Registration,” John Sheahan, Director of the Counseling and Advising Center, explained. “We require all new students who are coming here to

Photo by Zonghui Li | The Prospectus Academic Advisor Gregory Square helps a student choose their classes for the fall semester on Tuesday, May 5, 2015.

Photo by Zonghui Li | The Prospectus
Academic Advisor Gregory Square helps a student choose their classes for the fall semester on Tuesday, May 5, 2015.

Parkland, who are working towards a degree or certificate, to go through this process.”

There are a lot of things that students must take into consideration when they are choosing what classes to register for. They must decide which schools best suit their interests and construct a game plan designed to meet the requirements of whatever school they choose. Knowing where to begin can be difficult and a lot of first time students don’t always know what needs to be done. For students who have a desire to attend college but are undecided on a major, or don’t have a specific career in mind, the process can be a bit more difficult.

“If you have somebody who knows what they want to do, major wise, or where they want to go, well then that’s a lot easier because then you have a direction,” Sheahan said. “If you have students who maybe aren’t certain what they’re doing, usually we try shooting for the middle of the road helping them get a start in the proper classes. It’s important to know that we’re getting them started but then later on, after they’ve invested a little time into school and hopefully been successful, that’s when maybe you should take a look at that plan that you made the first time.”

For students in perhaps their third or fourth semesters who are interested in transferring to a four year institution to continue their education, the counseling and advising center provides assistance with that process as well. However, students who have completed 30 credit hours of class time are no longer required to meet with a counselor prior to registration, and are expected to take on more responsibility when it comes to contacting the schools that they are interested in attending. If an advisor is unfamiliar with whatever school the student is interested in, they will still take the time to help the student navigate college websites and show them who they should contact in order to gain the information they need.

“Once they hit 30, we do not require them to be advised,” Sheahan explained. “But still, a pretty good percentage of students will still come to us to work and do things that they need to do.”

Even with the available assistance, some students still feel that the process is stressful and think that counseling and advising could be more helpful. Morgan Paintner is one such student who is hoping to transfer and is having trouble figuring out exactly what she should do.

“They couldn’t help me even like sort through what I’m taking and what might transfer,” Paintner said. “They were just like well you have to figure it out on your own.”

Kyle Carpenter is a Parkland student seeking an associate degree in science, and he shares a similar feeling of frustration with the advising here at Parkland. However, he did stress the fact that a handful of advisors were very helpful.

“I think the advising staff needs improvement. There have been times when I needed to make multiple trips to Parkland in order to have issues resolved,” Carpenter explained. “I have also had advisors who never returned emails, which resulted in stress and yet another trip to Parkland to get the issue resolved.”

Sheahan explained that students who are planning on transferring will inevitably be confronted with some confusion, but that is just part of the process. His department does the best they can to know what steps any given student should take but, with thousands of students seeking their advice, it is difficult to satisfy everybody. That being said, he did point out that they don’t receive very many complaints from the student body here at Parkland.

Students needing help with registration, or finding out whether or not the classes they are taking will transfer, can visit the Counseling and Advising Center in room U276 to meet with an advisor who can help them develop a solid plan.