Credit hour limit puts students in a bind

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Tanner Long grew up bleeding blue.

As a child of two BYU alumni, BYU was the school of his dreams. But when he finally enrolled at BYU, it wasn’t quite the dream he had always imagined.

After being an undecided major for a few semesters, Long decided to declare exercise science. However, he quickly realized that wasn’t his passion.

“I was getting D’s in all my science classes, and I knew I needed to change my major,” Long said.

Unfortunately for Long, it wasn’t that simple. While he was undeclared, he filled his semesters with all his general education classes and most of his classes for a Spanish minor.

After serving a mission in Chile, a Spanish minor was an easy choice. So for Long, it made sense to work towards a minor and complete his general education (GE) classes while exploring other options.

“I didn’t know what to do, so I took all my GE classes and by the time I figured out what I wanted to do, it was too late,” he said.

It was too late for Long because some limited enrollment programs at BYU generally don’t accept students who have more than a certain amount of credits, and the advertising program — Long’s ambition — was one of those programs.

Long said he talked with his adviser about switching from exercise science to pre-communications and his adviser gave him the all clear. It was only after taking the prerequisite courses for the advertising program that Long was told he would be required to petition to apply because he had over 75 credit hours.

“The communications adviser made it very clear that it wasn’t worth my time to even try to apply,” Long said.

Long said the petition process was highly discouraged and that it was rare for students to be granted acceptance even with the petition.

The 75 plus credit hours policy is not just unique to limited enrollment programs. According to a university policy, after 60 credits students are required to either meet with an adviser to explain their intentions or declare a major. And if students have earned 75 or more credit hours, they can only change majors by petition.

Associate Student Life Vice President Ronald Chapman said this policy exists to benefit students.

“College life is expensive. You’re going to incur more debt by staying here,” he said.

Chapman explained that students would be better served to graduate with a Bachelor degree quickly, without debt, and then move on to graduate school if a student still has a passion for studying something else.

Approximately 83 percent of students change majors at least once while at BYU. In the winter of 2018 the advisement center contacted 100 open major students who earned 60 or more credits, but only 12 came in to meet with an adviser. (Allie Jones)

Chapman also said only 17 percent of students stay in the intended major they applied to BYU with. Therefore, the large majority of BYU students change their major at least one time, and according to the university policy, that is allowed as long as it is within the credit limit.

But for many students like Long, they hear about this policy too many credit hours too late.

Keith Proctor, an academic adviser for the University Advisement Center, said open major students are contacted by the center after earning 60 credit hours and are invited to meet with an adviser.

“Students shouldn’t have to feel like they have to figure it all out on their own,” he said.

The University Advisement Center is dedicated to helping students figure out academic and career goals. During Winter 2018, the advisement center contacted 100 open major students but only 12 came in to meet with an adviser.

Proctor said there are a lot of resources available to help incoming students start exploring immediately. His advice to students would be to meet with an advisor, take STDEV 117 — a career exploration class specifically focused on a theoretical approach to self-discovery — visit the website catalog.byu.edu to explore different major options, and go into the advisement center to take personality and interests tests including the Type Focus, the Strong Interest Inventory, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

Proctor said the advisement center is here to help students become more self-aware and help them find their passion.

Proctor suggested students try not to take all of their general education classes at once. He recommends a mix of general education, minor and major courses throughout each year.

Clark Callahan, associate director for the School of Communications, said Long’s experience is not what should have been.

“We want all people to apply regardless of credit hours,” he said.

Callahan said he personally meets with students who have over 75 credit hours and makes sure these students understand that if they want to apply to a communications emphasis they have to accept an additional four semesters of college. As long as the student is willing to accept that timeline, the school allows them to apply, according to Callahan.

But Long was never directed to meet with Callahan after talking to the communications adviser. He was told his only option was to change his minor and make Spanish his major.

“Spanish isn’t what I want to do with my life and I feel like it’s been a waste of my time,” Long said. “Now I’ll graduate in six years, but I would’ve already graduated if I had been able to change to advertising.”

If Long could do it all over again, he said there were many things he would change. But he advises freshman to not take so many credits the first two semesters so they do not get caught up unexpectedly by this policy.

Students who wish to meet with their academic advisers can do so within their respective colleges. The University Advisement Center can set up appointments with all open majors and can be reached by phone at 801-422-3826 or in person in room 2500 of the Wilkinson Student Center.

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