One of the greatest, and often most-underutilized, services colleges offer is academic advising.
With rare exception, a first experience students have on campus is with an academic advisor to help them define a major, choose and schedule their classes, and answer questions arising after orientation.
These certainly help make the transition from high school to college much easier.
Ironically, one of the great urban legends of college life is the negative experiences students claim to have with academic advisors.
You’ll hear upperclassman bemoan being “misadvised” and how it will cost them an extra semester of coursework.
Others will describe having to wait for hours to just see an advisor.
And, of course, there will be those graduating who claim to have done it all without any assistance from an academic advisor whatsoever.
Like all urban legends, there is always “more to the story” than what is described above.
What is true is not enough students take advantage of the experts available to them on campus.
Here are the four best reasons to make an appointment and talk to your advisor:
1) Assistance in deciding.
One of the greatest predictors of non-success for students, particularly those in the first year, is the absence of a major.
Without a major, it is hard to work meaningfully toward obtaining a degree.
How will you choose your courses for next semester if you aren’t sure what path you want to follow?
Advisors are skilled at helping undecided (or deciding) students assess which major and courses will suit them.
They have years of experience helping others navigate the path from admission to graduation.
You should seek the guidance of those most-equipped to help you.
2) Ensuring you are on track.
When you first begin your college experience, most choices are made for you.
You will likely enroll in some form of first year experience class, a set of introductory courses in Math and English, and maybe an elective or two.
Pretty simple. But, what about next semester and the one after?
I would be shocked if you were expert in course pre-requisites, substitutions or transferability of credits.
But, academic advisors are.
They can help ensure your plan for your second semester, second year and beyond are in proper alignment.
3) Sharing information on program/degree updates.
Colleges and universities are always looking to improve.
To do so, new courses, learning outcomes and programs of study are tweaked and introduced throughout the year.
The vast majority of students aren’t paying attention to these changes, but advisors must.
Often they will know about new (or even potential) adaptations to programs which will benefit you and help ensure your success.
You should tap into their knowledge bank.
4) Avoiding a surprise.
Of all of the potential frustrations of students, nothing is worse than surprise.
These often take the form of learning, right before graduation, that a needed course was missed. (“You mean I have to take another elective?!?”)
Or, the surprise in learning, sometimes too late, an additional major or minor was within reach. (“I could have had a minor in Sociology with two more courses? Why didn’t I know?”)
Periodic and proactive meetings with academic advisors will help you avoid the trap of missing something which could impact your future.
Make an appointment with your appropriate advisor now.
It is well worth the time investment to spend an hour each semester to confirm you are heading in the right direction.