Staying awake past midnight: students navigate the process of getting academic counseling


A student talks with the a representative at the Counseling Department’s front desk Tuesday, Nov. 12. The Counseling Department is where students have their transcripts evaluated, seek academic guidance and make educational plans for future coursework. Omar Rashad/The Union

Making an appointment with a counselor at El Camino College has been a difficult process for computer science major Nick O’Brian.

He has tried using the online counseling appointment system on the ECC website but never finds any openings to see a counselor. One day, he went to the counseling office’s front desk and was told that appointments become available online every night at midnight.

“It seems like you have to make an appointment with yourself to keep a space open to make an appointment with a counselor,” O’Brian said. “It’s very hard to stay on top of it, especially if I’m working.”

ECC students have found the process of making appointments with general academic counselors difficult as transfer application deadlines and registration for upcoming semesters approach.

Students can make appointments for general counseling, which offers guidance in selecting courses and evaluating transcripts, by going online, calling the counseling office or talking with the counseling office’s front desk, Dean of Counseling and Student Success Dipte Patel told The Union.

While general counseling is a traditional way to obtain academic guidance, special programs also have their own counselors, including the Honors Transfer Program (HTP), First Year Experience (FYE), Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS), CalWorks and the Guardian Scholars Program, Patel said.

However, appointments with general counseling become available at midnight for openings one week ahead. To be the first to book an appointment, students have to be awake at midnight and visit the ECC counseling appointment website.

Patel said the program ECC currently uses to book appointments with academic counselors was piloted in January and said it is not perfect as her department, from the beginning, has told the vendor who provides the online booking system, ConexED, that appointments being made available starting at midnight would not work for students.

However, ConexED is still assessing the requirements necessary to make those changes, Patel said.

If students are unable to make an appointment with general counseling, Patel said they should try to seek appointments with special program counselors if they are part of one. The counseling department also holds workshops for students who are simply in need of making an educational plan.

Students wait for their counseling appointments outside the Counseling Department Tuesday, Nov. 12. To be the first to make an appointment with a counselor, students need to visit the counseling appointment website at
midnight. Omar Rashad/The Union

“I think we need to market it a little more strongly, the drop-in ed planning sessions, because if what [students] really want is just the academic planning and their coursework is all at El Camino College, that is a good venue to do it,” Patel said.

Another factor in general counseling is when students do not show up to counseling appointments after scheduling them. If a student does not show up to counseling appointments after booking them, their appointment time slot is blocked from another students who may need counseling, Patel added.

“For many of our areas, when we initially implemented the new system in January, we saw a decline in no-show rates,” Patel said. “Not in all, so we still saw it high in a few areas but this semester for some reason, some of our areas I do feel the no-show areas have increased since the spring.”

Patel said student confusion regarding making counseling appointments may come from simply knowing how and when to make one. Students very often wait until deadlines or the few weeks prior to registration to schedule an appointment with a counselor.

“So, I think it’s also that timeframe in which students choose to do it,” Patel said. “They’re thinking about it when it’s close to registration, when some of this planning can be done well in advance of that.”

Because he was unable to make an appointment to meet with a counselor from the counseling department, O’Brian decided to meet with a counselor from the Career Center at ECC because it was easier for him to set up an appointment with them, he said.

He did not have to stay up until midnight to make an appointment, which is what he was told he would have to do if he wanted to meet with a general academic counselor. He simply walked up to the Career Center’s front desk in the Student Services Building and booked an appointment for two weeks ahead.

Bryan Ventura, undecided major, told The Union that he has used both the online appointment system and same day walk-in counseling service to see counselors at the Transfer Center.

Ventura said that he prefers to use the walk-in system because he found it easier than the online system where he had to stay up until midnight to make a counseling appointment.

Vania Cedeno, psychology major, said that she uses the email option on the online system and normally receives a response within two days.

“It gives me the option to either schedule an appointment or email them. I normally just email them because there is normally no appointments available,” Cedeno said.

Cedeno said she has mixed feelings towards the current system but wishes that they would add more days to the online system.

“It’s like in-between,” Cedeno said. “I wish they would add more days so I don’t have to wait for them to reply.”

Informing students of the different ways to get an appointment with a counselor is very important, Patel said.

“I think it’s an area we need to improve,” Patel said. “We did group ed planning just for business majors so it went through those venues as we’re testing it and trying to figure out how to do it. We were piloting it so a lot of that communication that occurred this semester occurred in those pilot groups.”

Patel also said that she is hopeful things will get better and her department has improved recently.

“We’ve increased a lot of technology, we’ve really talked about how to serve students best and giving a better understanding of where students needs are,” Patel said. “We’re at a point of transition because we’re implementing that but I think this is going to improve. How it is today is not how we expect it to stay or remain.”