How to Get Help from a College Advisor

Every college or university will have academic advisors to assist you. An academic advisor is your guide through the maze of educational planning. He or she is prepared to help you clarify your educational goals and specify the requirements necessary to achieve these goals. When you meet with your advisor, you will want to make the most of this opportunity. The following guidelines are suggested for your consideration.

Steps

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    Be prepared to share your concerns, doubts, thoughts, and feelings. The advisor cannot read your mind. You should be candid and straightforward about any questions and concerns.
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    Ask questions to clarify anything you do not understand. This is usually the most direct way to find out what you want to know. Also, letting something pass that you do not understand can often cause problems down the road.
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    Listen carefully and take notes of things you want to remember. This will provide a written record of what was said in the session and you won't have to rely on your memory for details.
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    Ask for a written copy of advising recommendations for your own records. You should receive a copy of any forms that are completed as part of the advising process. Then you are protected in case the original is misplaced.
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    Keep a file of all the advising information you receive. Your own personal advising folder can be very important. If you keep a record of everything you receive, you will have the documentation you need if a question ever arises about the accuracy of the information you received.
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    Bring along your program advising sheet (if you already have one) and ask questions about anything you don't understand. If you are seeing a new advisor, it's a good idea to bring along your most recent advising sheet or, better yet, your entire personal advising file. Your new advisor should have access to the previous advisor's records, but this is not always the case.
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    See your advisor whenever your program of study changes, and also when you think you are within two terms of graduation. Changes in a major can cause changes in course requirements; check out requirements as soon as you begin to consider a change of major. The closer you get to graduation, the more critical it becomes that you have regular advising sessions to make sure you stay on track. Some colleges require advising at certain points of your academic program; others leave it up to you to initiate contact when assistance is desired. If you are not required to attend regular advising sessions, it's a good idea to check with your advisor every couple of terms or whenever you have any doubt about what you are doing.
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    Start checking on university admissions 9 to 12 months before you plan to graduate (if you are a community college A.A. student). Some limited access programs have early application deadlines (which can be up to a year in advance of entry) and may require additional application materials, an interview, an audition, or other special documentation. You might also note that you are usually required to have a complete application package turned in by the deadline. It's a good idea to start early in case any questions arise about the materials you submit.
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    Don't expect the advisor to make decisions for you. Your advisor can provide you many kinds of useful information and can make recommendations with regard to certain issues, but he or she cannot assume responsibility for making the decisions you alone can make. He or she can help clarify requirements, alternatives, and consequences, but the decisions (and the responsibility) will always be your own.
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    Don't expect the advisor to comment on or recommend instructors. This is a matter of professional courtesy and political realism by the advisor. Much of the information advisors receive about professors is in the form of secondhand comments from students that cannot be easily verified. Advisors will not convey this kind of information to other students. If you want to know what other students think about a given professor, ask students who have taken a class from that professor and take what you receive with a grain (or a dash!) of salt.
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    Ask your advisor to help you determine an appropriate course load. Especially when you are just beginning, it is difficult to predict how much work will be required by a given number of classes. This decision may be affected by the nature of the courses you take, your other commitments, your academic history, how long you have been out of school, your level of academic confidence, and other such factors.
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    Deciding on an educational program is one thing; successfully completing one is another. There are many factors that contribute to academic success, not the least of which is an appropriate initial choice of goals. Given this, the next section presents some commonsense advice about how to become a more successful student.

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Categories: College University and Postgraduate