Making the Most of Your Academic Advising Relationship

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Academic advisors are assigned to each student based on their major or area of interest.  Academic advisors can assist you in determining what classes need to be taken (and in what order) to complete your degree in a timely manner.  As questions arise regarding making changes to your schedule, adding or changing a minor, or possible career options after graduation, your advisor can help you.  Getting to know your academic advisor has many advantages, including: formal and informal opportunities seek academic and/or career advice, getting plugged in to extracurricular activities in the department or on campus, or having an excellent reference to call on later for a letter of recommendation.  However, keep in mind that each academic advisor is also a full-time faculty member, teaching a full load of classes as well as advising dozens of other students.  In order to make the most of your interactions with your academic advisor, here are a few things to keep in mind:


  • Be patient.  Try to be patient when dealing with an advisor because they’re busy people, too! On top of a full time teaching load, many advisors are assigned 20-30 advisees or more.
  • Schedule an appointment.  Many advisors have office hours, open blocks of time that they are available for advising or help with course material.  However, to make sure that your advisor has enough time to truly listen to and discuss your academic needs, schedule an appointment rather than just dropping by.  Your advisor might be on his/her way to class or have an important committee meeting that could prevent them from giving you the time you need to address your questions or issues.  Importantly, contact them if you are running late or if you need to reschedule.  Also provide them a means to contact you if they are running late or need to reschedule.
  • Know your advisor’s role.  Your academic advisor is just that, an advisor.  They can assist you in course selection and monitoring your progress toward degree completion, but keep in mind that advisors cannot fix problems that their department does not handle.  They cannot help you with tuition costs, or problems pertaining to your scholarships or financial aid.  They cannot tell you whether a class you’re contemplating will be easy or hard (unless they teach it). They can provide a listening ear, but they are not personal counselors and may refer you to Student Services for assistance with personal issues.
  • Communicate.  Check your email regularly for correspondence from your advisor, and when you receive something, read it thoroughly and open any attachments that are sent.
  • Check the website.  Many basic questions regarding financial aid, course selection and registration, degree requirements, and more can be found on the university website.  By familiarizing yourself with the university’s website, a lot of questions you have may be easily answered without having to look your advisor up.
  • Know your degree sheet. Each major and degree has a degree sheet, a checklist of courses and requirements that are necessary to complete a given degree.  Secure a copy and make sure you update it at the end of every semester to track your progress toward your degree.  Pay special attention to the fine print!  The university has certain requirements that are specific to each degree (upper division hours, GPA requirements, etc.) that must be met in order to graduate.  Your advisor should help to remind you about these requirements, but it is still your responsibility to know your specific degree requirements.
  • Be prepared. When you meet with your advisor, bring the necessary materials.  If planning your course selection for the coming academic year, make sure you have your degree checklist.  It would also be a good idea to bring a tentative list of classes in which you are considering enrolling.  If you are interested in career planning advice or have other questions, bring a list of those questions and take notes on the responses, if necessary.  This way, you can get the most out of your meeting.