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How to Get the Most From Your Academic Advisor

Jan 13, 2012 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

The beginning of your college career will probably be marked by a visit with your academic advisor. This person may stay with you throughout all of your college career, or you may switch advisors as you switch majors or interests—academic advisors are usually assigned based on your interest in majors. Your academic advisor can provide you with a lot of help and insight as you move through college—if you manage the relationship the right way. Here are a few tips for getting the most from your relationship with your academic advisor.

Know what the advisor’s role is

Your academic advisor is there to help ensure your success at college. He or she can help you choose a major, talk about career aspirations, select the right courses, and stay on track for graduation. The academic advisor can also help you if you’re having academic difficulties. He or she can inform you about your options if you think you may be failing a class, are having problems earning enough credits, or other academic issues.


Your academic advisor is there to help you get the most possible from your academic experience.


Take an active role in the relationship

At most colleges, the student is expected to initiate first contact with the advisor. It’s best to do this early on in the semester. Your advisor can just help you with course scheduling issues, but he or she can provide resources and assistance that go well beyond that—so try to get to know the advisor throughout the semester. The better you know your advisor, the more comfortable you will be asking for assistance—and the more your advisor will get to know your goals and how to better help you achieve them.

Be prepared for your visit

Don’t expect your advisor to know everything right away. You’ll need to come to your visit prepared—and if you do, you’ll get a lot more from each encounter. If you’re going with course scheduling questions, go with a few options for class schedules written down—it’s possible some of the courses you want to take will be full. Know the hours you’re available for courses—and know the non-negotiable work hours you might have to deal with. If you’re going to talk about your major, do some research first into possible majors that interest you.

Bring the right materials

You may need to bring written materials, depending on what you’re visiting for—don’t count on your advisor to have copies of everything. Bring copies of course schedules and descriptions; copies of your high school transcripts; and other written materials that have been given to you in prior sessions. It can also be helpful to write down a list of questions so you don’t forget anything important.

Be honest

If something is bothering you about your academic career, don’t be afraid to speak up. If you feel you’re studying for the wrong major, are uncomfortable with a certain class schedule, or are facing some other issue, your academic advisor needs to know. Don’t hold back just because your advisor has advocated a course of action for you in the past that you’re not sure of now. Your advisor is there to help you—and that’s not possible unless you’re up front about issues you’re facing.

Your academic advisor is there to help you get the most possible from your academic experience. Take the initiative in forging a strong relationship with this person, and go into every meeting prepared—and you’re much more likely to have a strong ally in your academic advisor.


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