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Enhancing the First Year at MIT

Pre-Major Department Advising

Because the incoming students in Fall 2019 will not be offered Early Sophomore Standing and as part of OVC’s larger efforts to improve the choice of major process, we ask that every department develops a plan for advising first-year students.

There are a wide variety of strategies, many of which are listed below. Departments are not expected to do everything on the list but can use it as a starting point to develop a strategy that fits their needs and resources.

The Office of the First Year (OFY) will work with departments to coordinate programming and can offer advice and resources in many cases.

We hope that departments will also use this as an opportunity to collaborate with OFY on any and all first-year programming that the department offers and to minimize redundancies with OFY’s existing programming. OFY will be dividing the departments amongst their staff to intentionally coordinate programs for the ’19-’20 academic year, so we ask that departments designate a point person that OFY can contact.

Overall Guidelines

  • Include a variety of activities to accommodate different preferences and schedules.
  • Include some face-to-face component.
  • Make it clear where students should go if they have questions.
  • Consider efficiencies of scale (e.g. joint events with other departments, programs targeted at First-Years and Sophomores, info sessions on common topics of interest) while also fostering personal relationships and community within the department when possible


  1. Online forum (e.g. Piazza)
    1. First-years join and post questions
    2. Upper-level students and/or staff moderate
  2. Road maps
    1. Recommended paths through the major
    2. Can be created in Courseroad and easily edited by students
  3. FAQ pages
  4. Student profiles
    1. Blogs, videos, etc.
    2. Key major experiences
    3. Why they chose/like the major
  5. Email list
    1. For students to subscribe and learn about department events
    2. Could be first-year specific or could add students to main department list


  1. Info sessions
    1. Led by students, faculty, and/or staff
    2. Focused on overview of major or specific aspects (UROP, project classes, careers, etc.)
  2. Open class sessions
    1. Project presentations
    2. Invite first-years to sit in on class session of a core major class
  3. UROP poster session
  4. Mixers
    1. Typically including food or fun activity
    2. Informal opportunity to meet people in the department
  5. Group advising outings
    1. One faculty/staff member
    2. 5-10 first-years
    3. Discussing department over meal/coffee/ice cream
    4. OFY currently offers a faculty lunch series and are happy to collaborate to expand that
  6. Alumni events
    1. Panels, mixers, and company tours are all good options
    2. Mostly give opportunities for alumni to describe their path and for students to ask questions


  1. Assigned advisors
    1. Advising coordinator (typically UG admin) matches every interested first-year with an advisor
  2. Department Associate Advisors
    1. Team of upper-level students (volunteer or paid)
    2. Matched with interested first-year students
    3. May also be valuable for sophomores
    4. Could recruit directly or connect with OFY to identify existing Associate Advisors in your department who may be willing to hold events or office hours
  3. Office hours
    1. Hosted by Undergrad Officer, Undergrad Admin, faculty, etc.
    2. Offered at a variety of times
  4. Appointments
    1. Scheduled online
    2. Meet with Undergrad Officer, Undergrad Admin, faculty, etc.