My Experience With Academic Counseling At UCLA

It is no secret that UCLA has an impeccable academic reputation among both private and public schools in the nation and around the world. Yet, no university is perfect. UCLA is also known to have ineffective and uninformative counseling departments, across majors, minors and extracurricular activities, whether students are looking to learn more about research or studying abroad. Different counselors tend to give out different advice, causing students to become more confused and anxious about their future plans and their place at UCLA. There is still something lacking even when students get accepted to the Honors program or specifically get into organizations to gain more counseling.

The counselors here have a habit of merely listening to the students and then agreeing, without giving their suggestions. They then perform the basic routine of pulling up your class schedule, your unofficial transcript and reminding you when you are graduating. Rather than giving their two cents, they just show you how to get the information you desire through multiple UCLA-related links (as if students didn’t do that prior to booking a counseling appointment).

Personally, I went to inquire about studying abroad, and my conversation with the counselor took a total of ten minutes—he simply handed me a booklet. He didn’t discuss expenses, which classes I would take or even dates of the program. He told me to go through the booklet and then return at a later date if I had any questions. Also, when I went to learn more about how to obtain research experience, my Honors counselor just told me to email random professors and see who responds. It was my peers who told me how to get involved in research and how to do it properly, not the counselors.

Any bit of knowledge I have about my future, what classes to take and how to get more involved, has come from students older than me or friends who just got lucky and saw a counselor who is actually knowledgeable. I understand this isn’t high school anymore and no one is going to hold your hand, but it is essential to have some form of guidance during the four years of college, especially for students who are first-generation or whose parents do not know how the college system works.

Every academic institution needs a solid base of guidance and counseling for every student, whether the student is an athlete or a first generation student. Not only do students in college need to make unforgettable memories, but they also need to be on the right track for the rest of their lives. Whether it be learning more about what medical schools require, when to take the LSAT, or the process of applying to jobs, counselors need to be knowledgeable and ready for any question or concern a student—or even a parent of the student—may have. In other words, there needs to be a “sweet spot” between giving students the aid they deserve and letting them be independent because there is no permanent counseling department in life.

Because UCLA is a public university, the school does not have the funds to hire and train the best school counselors in the nation. The funds are geared towards housing, other academic resources and student-run organizations. It is rather unfortunate that private schools, due to their large monetary aid, provide better counseling and guidance to their undergraduate students compared to public schools. I firmly believe that the counseling department at UCLA is a low priority, and that is something that desperately needs to be changed.