Advising to expand to incoming first years
Advising at Yale is currently being evaluated by the Committee on Teaching, Learning, and Advising, and is set to see changes this summer.
Tenzin Jorden, Photography Editor
When Nareg Minassian ’26 arrived at Yale this fall, he was excited to finally explore a breadth of college-level classes in his intended major — Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. However, after being paired with an advisor whose specialty lay far elsewhere, he was left confused when scrolling through Yale’s vast course selection. What was a first-year MCDB student supposed to be taking?
Advising has long been a source of discontentment among students, with many students unsatisfied with the opportunities for help selecting classes and navigating academics at Yale. In conversations with the News, Dean of Yale College Pericles Lewis has discussed the ongoing evaluation of advising, overseen by the Committee on Teaching, Learning and Advising.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a radical overhaul, but it’s pretty considerable thinking about the logistics of how we help students get the information they need to choose their courses,” Lewis told the News.
At Yale, students in their first year are paired with faculty who are associated with their residential college and may not be involved in the student’s academic field, but once a student declares their major, their advisor becomes the director of undergraduate studies in the given department of their major.
However, Lewis told the News that advising is set to see changes later this school year including adding advising opportunities for the class of 2027 over the summer before they begin their first year, with specialized advisors in areas such as pre-med coursework.
Lewis said that on the whole they hope to amend advising by this summer, but some recommendations from the committee will take up to two years to implement.
The Dean’s Office is currently working on updating the website to help students be informed about what courses to take, according to Lewis, which will also help train the over 800 residential college advisors. He also said the committee is focused on developing advising systems over the summer for incoming first years who will not be paired with an advisor until August.
In addition, Lewis said individual college advisors may be “supplemented” by a group of advisors who can provide specific advice in fields such as pre-med or engineering.
In an email to the News, professor of economics and management at the School of Mangement Benjamin Polak, who chairs the committee, wrote that the committee has taken this school year to evaluate advising, focusing specifically on “pre-major advising” — advising for students who have yet to declare a major.
As a group, Polak said they have learned that all students need information in two main areas — navigating their entry to Yale and course selection. Students tend to have questions on these topics during three main periods: when they first arrive at Yale, during course selection and before the end of the add/drop period, and the deadline to change a course to Credit/D/Fail.
Polak wrote that the committee is looking at providing better online information to help college advisors know more information about course selection and decrease the demand for advising during “peak load” times.
“These are not easy problems to solve, and Yale is not the only school struggling with this,” Polak wrote to the News.
This online information, according to Polak, may include information for prospective majors such as which courses to take during their first year and, where relevant, how this depends on their academic background. At the same time, Polak wrote, the committee is also taking a look at in-person advising and are aware that technology is not a “magic bullet.”
“The committee believes that better information on the web is a complement, not a substitute for excellent in-person advising,” Polak wrote to the News.
These prospective changes to advising come at a time when numerous students have struggled with the current advising system. The News spoke to five students about their frustrations with advising.
Victoria DeMersseman ’25, a biomedical engineering major, wrote to the News that advising for first years has been one of her “biggest disappointments” since coming to Yale.
“I really like that Yale doesn’t make you declare a major going in even for STEM majors but they also don’t really give you any resources for choosing the right one,” DeMersseman wrote to the news.
DeMersseman wrote that the residential college advisor she was paired up with during her first year did not know anything about her area of interest and she found it “especially frustrating” given that she would need to decide which type of engineering to study by her second semester.
In addition, DeMersseman wrote that she already felt overwhelmed with the transition to college and would have found relevant academic guidance helpful, given that she feels she “wasted space” in her schedule.
“It’s especially frustrating because I know a lot of my friends in humanities tracks had a really positive experience with their advisor while I felt like I was fending for myself and just ended up taking the same courses my suite mate was taking because I was overwhelmed with choices and didn’t know where to start,” Demerseman wrote to the News.
On the other hand, Erin Foley ’26, a prospective computer science major, said that her first-year advisor was within her major’s department, although perhaps this was coincidental. This guidance allowed her to plan major-specific courses across her first year.
Foley did express, however, that the advising program was not well-structured, and she wished there were more opportunities to meet and establish a relationship with her advisor.
“I think the academic advisory program is most, and potentially only, beneficial when the advisor is linked to the student’s academic interests,” Foley said. “My only qualm is that the relationship between academic advisor and advisee is difficult to maintain. At least in the cases of most of my friends, and my own, advisors don’t typically check in throughout the semester, so even if a relationship is started, one-time advice is much less impactful than a sustained relationship.”
Dean Lewis’ term as Dean of Yale College began on July 1.