Is your student on track to graduate on time?
Vice Provost for
Parents and advisors play a delicate role in helping students graduate on time. On one hand, many students need academic exploration as they decide who they are and what roles they will play in the world.
On the other hand, we do need to nudge some students toward a timely graduation. Students, families, Western and the State of Washington all save time and money when students graduate on time.
The average time to degree for a student who enters Western as a freshmen is 4.3 years—a very respectable rate. In fact, many students graduate from Western in less than four years. However, many students take five years or longer and this is the population we need to nudge along.
Our analyses show that the most common reason for a delay in graduation is that students wait too long to select their majors. This is especially the case for transfer students, most of whom declare after one year at Western and require three years to graduate.
Ideally, students should declare their major at or around the completion of 90 credits—after two years for native freshmen or upon enrollment for transfers. However, many Western students do not declare a major until nearly 130 credits—a full year later than they should.
The most common reason for a delay in graduation is waiting too long to select a major
Surprisingly, most of these students see nothing wrong with their progress. In fact, when surveyed, most of our delayed graduates report that graduation "took about as long as they expected."
Of course, some students need extra time to sort out their goals, meet prerequisites and select their academic major. However, we believe most students can move through these steps more quickly if reminded of expected timelines and provided advising support and assistance.
In response, Western now requires advising for all students without a major at 105 credits. We believe this additional step will help provide the support students need to enter majors more quickly. We have also stepped up other advising efforts and are making a larger effort to provide students with data and information they can use to advise themselves.
We would like very much to partner with families in this effort. To this end, we provide the following list of advice and expected milestones.
Freshmen should acquaint themselves with the structure of advice and support provided by the Academic Advising Center (AAC). We find that successful students know where to access such information before they need it. Click here to learn more about freshman advising.
Students must see an advisor if they haven't picked a major after earning 105 credits
Freshmen should select courses that meet their General University Requirements (GUR) and permit them to explore major interests. A student interested in Psychology, for instance, should take a psychology course to meet a social science GUR.
Freshmen should also plan their GUR courses with an eye to the prerequisites of the majors that interest them. For instance, a student interested in business can meet a social science GUR requirement by taking economics courses that count toward business prerequisites. That way, the courses count twice. Click here to see Major guides for all majors, and their perequisites.
Freshmen can also explore career options associated with their major interests by visiting the Career Services Center's "What Can I Do With a Major in . . .?" Additionally, students may want to review the Career Center's "Employee Status Survey of Recent Graduates," which tracks the job placement rates for recent graduates of each academic major.
Finally, a simple Internet search for "What can I do with a psychology (or history, or English, etc.) major?" can direct a student to numerous academic sites with major and career advising information.
Sophomores should continue to select courses with an eye to both their GUR requirements and the prerequisites of the majors or areas that interest them. For instance, all business and economics majors share the same seven prerequisites. A student with a general interest in business and economics can meet these requirements while considering whether to major in Accounting, Finance, Management, Decision Sciences, or Economics.
By the end of sophomore year, students should declare a major or meet with an advisor to develop a major selection plan. Undecided students can meet with an advisor from the Academic Advising Center. Students with a clear academic interest should meet with an advisor in that department.
In addition to attending to the above advice, freshmen interested in science majors need to meet specific prerequisites during the freshmen year. A student with a general interest in the sciences should work toward completing Math 124, Chemistry 121-122, and Physics 121-122 as these are required of nearly all science majors.
A student with a specific science major interest should consult that major's major planning guide to determine these prerequisites.
All of the above advice holds for transfer students. In fact, transfer students should be considering major prerequisites while at their community colleges. Before arriving on campus, transfer students should consult the Academic Advising Center's Transfer advice.
Undecided transfer students should meet with a transfer advisor at the Academic Advising Center. Students with a major interest should meet with advisors in that academic department.
Transfer students need also consult their Transfer Equivalency Report in order to clarify how their community college credits have transferred to Western.