It is not obvious to some new college students why meeting with an academic advisor at least every semester is required at many universities. Some students forget to make advising appointments and others try to take shortcuts by asking advisors just to “clear them” for registration without any substantive conversation about their academic plans and progress. After a semester or two, most students discover how advisors can help them navigate through their academic choices.
Having worked as an academic advisor for five years now, I know how useful an advisor can be to an undergraduate student. Here are eight good reasons why a student should meet with his or her advisor regularly.
Your advisor is likely to know about any late-breaking changes in the curriculum, in registration technology, or new courses being offered.
EXAMPLE: A Visual Arts student learns from his advisor that a new Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is going to be offered beginning in the upcoming semester.
A good advisor will caution you against taking a course for which you do not have adequate preparation.
EXAMPLE: A prospective engineering major learns that even though Introductory Physics is not a formal prerequisite for Statics, taking the Physics first really is a good idea.
Advisors are good at detecting errors that may have been made in your transfer credits, in posting repeated courses, or in other tricky areas.
EXAMPLE: While meeting with a student, an advisor notices that a student has not been given academic credit for a high score on an Advanced Placement exam. She writes to the registrar’s office to request a correction. The student now has six additional college credits because this clerical error has been corrected.
A good advisor will ask you how you are doing in your current courses and make suggestions if you are having difficulty.
EXAMPLE: An advisor steers a student having difficulty in a Math course to attend the instructor’s (optional) review sessions, visit the Math tutorial center, ask questions during the instructor’s office hours, and try to put together a study group that includes some of the stronger students.
A good advisor will help you decide how many courses you can handle, given your track record, your other obligations, difficulty of the courses, and other factors.
EXAMPLE: A student with a 30-hour per week job and heavy family obligations decides to take only a part-time schedule (2 to 3 courses) after the advisor explains that a full-time schedule is not practical.
Advisors guide you to take courses that will help you finish your degree sooner rather than later.
EXAMPLE: After talking with his advisor, a student who was attempting a double major decided to change one of the majors to a minor, allowing her to graduate in four years. The advisor also pointed out that certain courses can fulfill two requirements at once.
Academic advisors share information about internships, lab placements, study abroad programs, summer jobs on campus, university scholarships, and many other opportunities during advising sessions. They also refer students to the right places to get more details about these opportunities.
EXAMPLE: While meeting with her advisor, a student learned that she could study abroad on a short-term program during the January term. She was given information about how to follow up with the study abroad office to learn more. (Previously she assumed you had to study abroad for an entire semester.)
Your academic advisor can help you think about your post-graduate plans to enter the workforce, apply to graduate or professional school, enter the military, enter a post-baccalaureate program, or go in some other direction. A pre-law advisor, a pre-med advisor, or your general academic advisor can help you prepare to enter your next phase after graduation. They can also refer you to experts elsewhere on campus, including the Career Center and the Graduate School.
Example: A student developing an interest in applying to dental school was given a referral to the pre-dental advisor, who provided a copy of a schedule of upcoming visits to campus by dental school admissions officers. He was also given a copy of the recommended coursework for pre-dental students. He was added to the distribution list for pre-dental students and will receive regular updates and advice.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of good reasons to see your academic advisor. I hope it has encouraged you to make that next appointment with your advisor and keep it. You will get even more out of the exchange if you are prepared.
If your advisor is not providing the level of effort that seems appropriate, do not hesitate to ask your advising coordinator or the chair of your major department to assign you to a different advisor. There are many good advisors. Make sure to find one because it can make a huge difference to your college career.
Professional experience and training