Creating a path towards success
Every single adviser I have talked to talks about creating freshman schedules that will help them succeed and not set them up for failure as new students at SJSU. I think that part of the reason that this idea is stressed so much is because a large percentage of SJSU students must take remedial math or English courses when they first enroll. Students must take the Entry Level Math test (ELM) and English Placement Test (EPT) before coming to orientation. Their scores on these tests (the SAT or ACT or AP tests are also sometimes used) determine which math and English classes students must enroll in during the fall term. While this seems relatively clear and aimed at ensuring that students are not in over their heads, other policies seem to contradict with this concept.
For one, scores on the ELM and EPT, high school GPAs, and other test scores have no bearing on what majors or colleges a student can choose between. A student who must take two terms of remedial math can just as easily major in engineering as a student who comes in with a perfect score on the SAT. In another case the pre-Nursing program at SJSU is impacted; this means that there aren’t enough spaces or resources for all incoming nursing students to go through the entire program. In their first two years of college these student must compete with each other for limited spots in upper-division courses. However, their high school work has no bearing on whether they can mark pre-nursing as their major of choice. I contrast that with my undergraduate institution where the College of Engineering had different admission requirements than the College of Arts and Science, which had different admission requirements than the College of Business. If a student couldn’t meet the more rigorous requirements they came in as pre-engineering or pre-business and had to work their way up. I’m sure there are benefits to both systems, but it is currently my belief that setting specific expectations right off the bat for certain majors makes the advising process easier and more honest.
Easy and honest in the sense that I won’t be looking at a student and telling them, “Yes we admitted you into this college and yes we knew that in all likelihood you’d have to drop out of it”. Easy because I won’t have to look at a student and tell them “There’s no way that you can graduate with this degree in four years”. Honest because I will be able to tell a student “You didn’t have the high school grades or test scores needed to get into your major of choice, however here are the requirements you need to meet in order to transfer into this major”.
I will concede that there are some pitfalls to this system. I am well aware that some students simply don’t test well and therefore their math or English scores may never completely reflect their knowledge. However, the first few years of college usually involve a number of tests and in compacted programs like nursing, tests will ultimately be what determines whether a student can move on in the major. I am also sure that their are some students who somehow make the magic switch and despite all signs pointing otherwise go on to be successful in their chosen field. The question as it so often becomes is how much support can we give a student who is challenged by a certain major and what support is best when the challenge seems too great? Is it better to let a student down easy and early or should we allow students to continue on in majors, colleges, careers until THEY recognize that these things are no longer feasible?