SMC Counselors Helpful To All But The Helpless

Visiting an SMC counselor is like going on a blind date. You are both strangers that have little to no interest in each other but if matched correctly, very well could change your life forever.

Unfortunately, the chance of finding true love on a blind date is as slim as an SMC counselor properly charting out your entire community college transfer strategy.

SMC counselors are very hit and miss. Some avoid eye contact and barely feign interest, offering the same information available on the articulation section of the SMC website nearly word-for-word.

Others are as enthusiastic, eager to relay success stories and dole out advice and handy printouts. However, as helpful as the brochures and checklists are, they are not enough, especially for out-of-state, international and first-year students unable to fully comprehend what needs to be done.

The counterpart to this article argues that the two-year transfer system works "when you make it work" but does not address those that are unable to make it work due to language barriers or financial restrictions. These are the students that need counseling, not the slackers that opted to take Ceramics 1 instead of Physics 14.

Many SMC students plan to transfer in two years, which leaves little wiggle room for mistake (or creative writing courses). For example, many counselors automatically suggest that first-year students take a time management course or attend student success seminars despite impressive high school transcripts.

Not only are these courses a waste of time for those that do not need help honing their organizational skills but also a waste of money, especially for international students that pay a whopping $221 per unit.

Counselors see many students a day but that is no excuse to treat students like ID numbers. While counselors needn't remember each name and face they see everyday, each student deserves counseling tailored to his or her scholastic goals.

Many students prefer to use the resources available online and simply chart out their two-year plan on their own. However, there are lots of loopholes involved in the transfer process that students do not know about that are not listed in the articulation FAQs.

For example, liberal arts majors can take courses with the UCLA extension program to fulfill mathematics requirements. For those that excel at the arts but flounder when it comes to anything involving numbers, this short cut can save many semesters worth of math courses and thus expedite the transfer process. It is possible to transfer completely independent from any guidance but it is much easier to do it with a little help.

While counselors are not entirely to blame for student apathy or error, they could do more to make counseling services seem less like a chore or at least become more informed about transferring to schools other than UCs and CSUs.

Perhaps it would be more fitting to treat visiting the counseling department as a 15-minute speed-dating exercise instead of as a blind date. Visit multiple counselors and ask them all the same questions. Compare and contrast the answers you receive as well as the chemistry you do and don't experience.

If you feel that you establish a connection with a particular counselor, don't play games! Let him or her know immediately and ask to see them again in the near future. 

Perhaps the addition of a handful more counselors would also help alleviate the impersonal vibe of the counseling department. That way counselors would have more time to see less students, thus making it a more personalized experience and less like waiting in line at the deli. Yes, it is important to pro-actively chart out your own community college course as a Corsair, however, it would be a lot easier to transfer if you had a first mate counselor.