Your advisor is your academic planner: Ask them these 6 things

Posted June 11, 2015 by


Although many college freshmen don’t think too much about seeing an academic advisor, due to the fact that they have so many other things to adjust to, it’s one of the most important things that they should do within their first few months on campus. You should see your advisor as your academic planner. They know just about everything that’s important about the academic situation at the university: grading systems, courses that lead to specific degrees, and so on. However, they will not seek out students; rather the student needs to be the one to take the initiative.

1 – The 4 year plan

The first thing to ask an advisor is how to graduate in four years. Many students are taking five or more years to complete their university education because many colleges and universities are impacted, meaning there are more students than there are seats for them to sit in. It’s hard enough as it is to finish in four years; it’s important that students don’t take the wrong classes or miss an all important prerequisite class that could prevent them from graduating on time. Freshmen should sit down with the advisor and work out a four year plan for success so they know which classes to take.

Compare majors before choosing2 – Exploring different majors

Students are also encouraged to discuss their major field of study options within the first semester of entering college. Although some students are determined to study one field that will lead to a specific profession, the majority of college students will change their mind at least once throughout their college career. For instance, if a student is considering majoring in either psychology or chemistry, the academic advisor can provide them with a list of courses that will fill a prerequisite requirement for both majors. This way, the student isn’t wasting time taking classes they don’t need for graduation.

3 – The grading system

Each university has a different grading system. It’s important for students to talk with the academic advisor about the school’s particular grading system and the GPA that they would like to maintain. Most students want to maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher. Additionally, students who are considering graduate school at any point should discuss the GPA required to apply to a Masters program.

4 – Transfer options

Students who are studying at a two year college should discuss their transfer options up front. There are certain classes that easily transfer to four year universities and others that don’t. Also, students need to ask if any of their requirements will transfer to an out-of-state school or to a private college. It should be noted that, in California, students attending accredited two year colleges will have an option of transferring to the University of California system or the California State University system by following one of two course options. It’s important that the student knows which university system they wish to attend so they are on the right track from the first semester.

Your academic planner can help you imagine different careers5 – Ask about potential careers

In many ways, an academic advisor will also serve as a career advisor. This is essential because a multitude of students are graduating college without knowing what jobs they qualify for or what companies they should apply to. This leaves students with another year where they aren’t earning a full-time salary or are forced to take another unpaid internship. Many students will learn that, although they enjoy studying a particular subject matter, their options in a particular field may not best suit their career goals. In this respect, many students may change their major, choose a double major, or add a minor field of study. Although education for education’s sake is valuable, students also want to have a job that can pay the bills upon graduation.

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6- Discuss weaknesses

Students should be upfront about classes they are worried about. For example, if a student wants to major in English but they are terrified of public speaking, they can discuss available options. The advisor may be able to find an alternative course that doesn’t require public speaking or refer the student to a supplemental education service that can help them overcome their particular academic issue. However, if a student is not honest and upfront about their weaknesses, the advisor can’t help.

In short, academic advisors are one of the most valuable resources for college students. For the most part, students will see their academic counselor when they first start and as they near graduation. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough. Students should continue to see their academic advisor on a regular basis and follow through with any issues or questions they have from earlier appointments. Students should use every valuable resource the university has to offer.

Robyn Scott is an Orange County private English tutor with TutorNerds LLC. She has a BA from the University of California, Irvine and a MA from the University of Southampton, UK.

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