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Why is it so difficult to acquire the answers that i'm asking?

Most of the colleges that I have visited beat around the bush when I ask questions according to my major. It seems that I am referred to 3 or more people in order to get one question answered, or I will just be ignored all together. Should I trust the colleges that feed me false information? #college

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Subject: Career question for you

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Hallie’s Answer

Hi Allie-- As someone who works for a university, I can say that that the decentralized structure of large universities can make it challenging for one person or one office to answer all of the questions that students may have because each office and each person is responsible with knowing different things. This may explain why you are referred to a multitude of people to get your questions answered; sometimes, it takes a couple attempts for university officials to figure out who exactly is the best person to answer your question. With that being said, I think that, at the very least, you should be able to expect that the individuals you are speaking with are being up front and honest with the information they are giving you and that they are making a good faith effort to satisfactorily answer your question(s).


To help get your questions answered, my advice to you would be to start with your intended academic major/department. They should be well-versed in most university policies and procedures so they will should be able to answer a variety of general questions, but they also will know specific information as it applies to the major /department as well. Because they are only typically only helping students in or interested in that major area, as opposed to all the students at the university, they should be more responsive to you as well. In addition, you may try using different communication methods to get information. Some individuals are great at responding to emails but not so great with answering phone calls. Likewise, some information is easier to explain and understand in an email, while other information is better suited for a phone call. Finally, I recommend to just be persistent. If you do not hear back or don't feel satisfied with the answer that you get, ask again! Or, try asking in another way.


I'm sorry to hear about your difficulties in finding the information you are seeking, but I think that it's great that you are dedicated to getting answers to your questions, and I hope you find the information you are looking for!

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Lillian’s Answer

This is one of my favorite questions I've seen! Welcome to the question that you will be asking for the rest of your life. For me, it also started when I was trying to navigate the awful bureaucracy called my university. However, as I kept asking this question for several more years, I realized it was just a part of adulthood that I hadn't yet experienced. You will have this experience not only throughout college, but also when you need to find someone to fix something in your house, whenever you call a hospital, whenever you're working with a federal agency, whenever you have a question regarding insurance, definitely any time you deal with internet companies, etc.


The good news is that what you are learning now is an incredibly valuable skill. Any time you deal with a large organization, it will most likely have several different departments and the first person you call will not know the answer. Some people you speak to will be more professional/helpful while many others are not and will do things like forget to call you back or tell you the WRONG answer. What you are experiencing is very common, and the fact that you have the insight to recognize this phenomenon now is definitely going to help you in the long run.


About colleges feeding you "false information": unless you are going to a for-profit, scammy college, your school is not actively trying to lie to you. They may not know the answer to your question due to their incompetence or you're calling the wrong department, but they are not willfully trying to disseminate lies--if they did this, they would not have any more students that want to go their school! If your question is about money or about very specific circumstances, they might not be able to predict a correct answer to your question. If your question has the potential to cause them a lawsuit or cause you at any point in the future to say "so-and-so told me this--they were wrong so now it's their fault", they are going to 'beat around the bush' to both protect themselves and you from false expectations. Your question may not be answerable if they just don't collect that type of data, but it always helps to ask around / do your own research.


Your question is the reason I work in higher education right now. After 4 years of having to navigate my university, I became an expert in it and made it my life's mission to improve it so other students don't experience what you and I go through. I understand now that it is a helpful skill for students to learn--too much help and you're enabling students; too little and they will be frustrated beyond belief. I hope this answer helps give you a little more insight into your question!

Lillian recommends the following next steps:

In terms of finding an answer--sometimes researching online can be more reliable.
Sometimes you can find an advisor, a counselor, a professor, an alumni, an older student, or whoever else you can to answer your question.
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