Peer Advisors: An Important ResourceBY: Claire Radler '19 DATE: February 22, 2016 CATEGORIES: Making the Transition to College, The Life of a First-Year
Coming to Notre Dame, I knew almost no one. Sure, I had met a few people at admitted student events or tours, but I was nowhere close to feeling comfortable when I first arrived on campus. The moment that really hit me was during the opening First Year Mass when I looked around the completely full Joyce Center and realized the only people I knew besides my roommate were the people standing to either side of me, my parents.
How do you connect at Notre Dame?
One of the first resources that I encountered was the peer advising program. Peer advisors are accomplished juniors and seniors that have been through everything a freshman has to face, and much more. They are somebody that is on your side, and someone that you can talk to.
“We want to provide students with everything they need to make the transition to life at Notre Dame as smooth as possible, and to enable them to get adjusted and thrive here, academically, socially, and professionally,” says First Year advisor Fr. Don LaSalle, one of the assistant directors of the peer advising program, "It’s basically to provide another level of support, from a student’s perspective, Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone who’s a couple years older and who has gone through everything you will to address certain questions.”
Peer advisors are chosen in the spring semester from the rising sophomore and junior classes. “Usually we look for people who have achieved a certain GPA, a certain amount of academic success, so that they can share their experience of doing well at Notre Dame with the first year students," Fr. LaSalle explains.
Students with a GPA above 3.5 and with an advisor recommendation receive an invitation to apply. They go through an extensive application process where they are interviewed by previous peer advisors and the coordinators of the program, director Jenny Fox, and assistant directors Father Don LaSalle and Dr. James Creech. There are about 52 peer advisors, each one in charge of students in two sections of the Moreau First Year Experience.
Fr. LaSalle encourages students to take advantage of the program. “I think the big thing would be to encourage students to take full advantage of the program, use it, because there’s a lot of wisdom in the people who are juniors and seniors; they’ve been around, they know the system, the difficulties and the pluses. They also know a lot about what’s out there in terms of program and internships.”
Juniors and seniors want to help.
Samantha Mannion, a biology major with a minor in anthropology, is a senior peer advisor this year. She lived in Lewis Hall for three years, but now lives off campus. Mannion decided to become a peer advisor because being able to help freshman with some of the same things that she had struggled with was intriguing.
“The most rewarding thing for me is being able to help somebody with an issue that I struggled with my freshman year. Especially if I’m talking to somebody who wants to go into my same major or minor or be involved with something that I did, I enjoy being able to connect them to people that tell them how I did it and some of the things I stumbled on and also to reassure them that if they’re stressed out or worried, I worried about the same thing,” says Mannion.
One of the most common things she helps freshman with is managing the transition to college coursework. College classes are different from high school classes in that they’re less structured, and it can take time for students to adjust. They often need to learn how to manage their time, balance activities, and work ahead. Peer advisors can help.
“I see the program as a good central source of information," says Mannion, “Peer advisors are aware of a lot of different resources on campus, different professors in their department, academic requirements, activities, dorm events, things like that. We can help point them in the right direction:”
Many students have great experiences with their peer advisors.
Grace Parker ‘19 says, “My first meeting with my peer advisor went really well and we had great conversation — but my peer advisor was most helpful with class registration. He held ‘office hours’ and allowed us to come see him with any questions we had about what classes are the hardest, fill up the fastest, stuff like that. Registering for the first time can be intimidating so I was really thankful for the advice.”