A normal faculty duty includes helping assigned students draft a MAP (My Academic Plan). The plan is not a contract but does represent a template that the advisor and student fill out with the understanding that substitutions can be made if substituting an apple for an apple: for example, a history course will not substitute in the block calling for a science. Also, when filling out a MAP, even though there is no such thing as a major at the community college level, it is expedient for students with clear leanings to take certain courses that prepare them for a major later on.
This is where an issue of reality versus fantasy can arise. It is not unusual for a student without apparent aptitude or ability in certain disciplines to aspire to a vocation in such a discipline. Sometimes, however, a student by perseverance and late blooming can do what had appeared unthinkable. It can easily happen that some way-underachieving high school students can wake up and amaze everyone by creating a whole new academic persona.
No advisor wants to squash a dream that can become reality and which turns out not to be mere fantasy. However, in many situations, test scores in traditional core areas, as well as early academic performance in the first year, clearly show that a student will not be successful in what he or she had dreamed. The dream is mere fantasy.
The question is, “Does the advisor say this or does the advisor let self-discovery take its course?” I tend to let self-discovery take its course up until the student’s GPA or grades in certain courses make it clear that there is no way the initially hoped for goal can be reached. It is fair to make plain that certain professional programs are highly competitive to get into, with far more applicants than spots for admission. Also, certain GPA standings, as well as track records in a certain discipline can easily predict that the student will only be disillusioned later if not made aware now of the situation.
I don’t say, “You can’t do it.” I simply say, “This transcript does not have much chance,” or “This transcript does not have any chance.” This is no more than an honest and fully decided woman telling a persistent suitor, “I will never marry you.” This is no more than a coach telling certain players on the basketball team, “No college will recruit a player with this skill set.” Sometimes, it is that obvious.
But think of all the time and energy saved, and newly fashioned dreams now possible, that can begin to happen when a hoped for dream is let go of. We all know the frustration of those who, as the cliché says, “won’t take no for an answer.”
Once again, this is not to tell a person, “You can’t do it.” It is only to say, “Here is the skill set needed to do what you are hoping to do,” and “Here is the skill set that will never work to get one there.” Faculty and staff, most likely, have lived out the same scenarios for themselves and therefore have the empathy to share those experiences.