By Sara Rodberg and Ebony Pulley
Both ASAP Advisors
The “Fifteen to Complete” initiative within the CUNY Momentum plan creates a perfect opportunity for advisors, faculty, and staff to have graduation and goal-oriented conversations with students about how to achieve success in their academic pursuits. In general, people like to know their options and students are no different. Our students tend to make informed decisions for themselves based on their own needs and guidance from advisors. In ASAP, many of our conversations begin and end with graduation, transfer, and the classes that students will take along the way.
When students initiate their enrollment with ASAP, they begin by completing a questionnaire that provides the advisors with information that helps to determine whether the student is a good candidate to take five classes, or fifteen credits, during the semester. Student responses to questions about their academic and personal interests, whether or not they are employed, or if they have additional responsibilities, provide advisors with insight about how a student may fare with five classes. Sample questions from the questionnaire have been provided in the appendix of this article for reference. While the questionnaire helps the advisors discover who our students are and how they view themselves as college students, the purpose of reviewing the questions with the students is to facilitate the conversation about how many credits a student should decide to take per semester.
Students may choose to disclose whether or not they work, how many hours they work per week, whether they took time off between high school and college, and they are encouraged to share if they have additional responsibilities outside of school or work. Some of the additional responsibilities that students face include being parents, being the caretaker of a family member, working full time, and sometimes a combination of any of these factors. Of course, advisors present the option and students are then able to consider the idea of taking fifteen credits with the final decision being the student’s. The questionnaire also has space for students to choose whether they would like to identify a person or people who motivate them and whether they are willing to sacrifice free time to commit to being a student. Questions like these help students identify a supportive network to help them stay focused on their courses.
During an immersive student orientation, students who are new to ASAP engage in a number of activities, including one that encourages them to forecast their graduation dates. During this activity, students are guided to select a number of credits that they would like to complete per semester, including the summer and winter intersessions, and then project their graduation date. Students who select twelve credits per semester are not discouraged from doing so, but we take these opportunities to explain how students can graduate up to a full semester earlier by completing fifteen credits each semester. Once students have identified a projected graduation date, ASAP advisors tend to reference this goal while working with students throughout their time in ASAP.
The “Fifteen to Complete” initiative will generate particularly impactful conversations for students who still need to complete a remedial course because of the non-credit bearing nature of those developmental courses. Students are encouraged to complete remedial courses as soon as possible so that they can take fifteen credits in subsequent semesters. Despite potential remedial needs, students and advisors center most conversations around the topic of graduation and staying focused on student goals.
Advising conversations typically involve forecasting academic performances in classes while planning next semester’s classes to help students balance their course loads. Students generally feel assured knowing that they will not be required to take all of their math, science, and writing intensive courses at once. They like knowing they can depend on their advisors to help them select schedules that will be manageable with the lives and schedules they described for us when they first arrived at ASAP. Advisors and students regularly revisit discussions about strategies for successfully completing the courses they have committed to, which include addressing time management habits and skills, practicing good study skills, going to tutoring at the HALC, keeping class materials organized, and building rapport with professors. To that end, ASAP advisors help set realistic goals, continually reassess those goals, and reinforce high expectations for students to reach their goals by encouraging students to enroll at least full time, but also to enroll in up to fifteen credits when possible.
SAMPLE QUESTIONS FROM ASAP INTAKE QUESTIONNAIRE
*The questions that appear below are a sample of questions from a longer questionnaire that ASAP staff use to help get the conversation started with ASAP students after they are admitted to the program.
Are you currently working or do you plan to work while in college? ⃞Yes ⃞No
How many hours per week do you work? Are your hours flexible? ⃞Yes ⃞No
Was there a break in your education (for example since graduating HS/earning your GED to your first semester in college)? ⃞ Yes ⃞ No
If yes, what did you do during that time?
Do you have responsibilities that might challenge you while in college? ⃞ Yes ⃞ No
If yes, please explain.
Do you feel prepared to sacrifice fun time for schoolwork? If so, what will motivate you to do so?