Career Planning

What Students Should Ask an Academic Advisor

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By: Rhiannon Winner, Uloop

Especially for students who are new to college or are considering approaching an academic advisor for the first time, doing so can seem quite intimidating. As scary as an academic advisor may seem at first glance, they really do want to see students succeed.

Make sure your student asks the questions below to get involved with their academic advisor and to get on track for an awesome college career.

What did you do after graduating college?

This question is great because it hits two birds with one stone. Getting to know an academic advisor is crucial. They can help whenever your student hits any bumps along the way during their college career, and best of all, they can write fantastic recommendations in the future should your student get to know them now. This question helps your student get a sense of who they are as a person, and helps develop a connection.

This question is also great because it’ll give your student a sense of their options after graduation. There are a million different paths people in each chosen major could take, many of which students may not have considered. Your student’s academic advisor almost certainly did more than just graduate and begin advising. They can educate about other opportunities in different career fields early on, and if your student chooses to pursue a similar path, they can serve as a mentor. Many advisors are happy to remain in this capacity even after your student graduates.

What classes should I take next semester?

Although it’s important to ask their academic advisor this question, don’t expect the advisor to do everything for your student. Before meeting with them to discuss their classes for the next semester, encourage your student to go through the course catalog and pick out an ideal schedule plus some backup classes. Then, have them take their proposed schedule to their academic advisor to discuss it.

While your student might feel ready to dive right into a bunch of classes in their field, their academic advisor might suggest that they try knocking out some general classes first. They will probably be able to steer your student away from some sketchier courses and professors, and talk them through anything they might not have thought of. Academic advisors will already be planning your student’s classes for the rest of college, which is a wonderful resource. They can ensure that your student takes the right classes at the right times and doesn’t end up graduating later than they intended.

Your student can also approach their academic advisor with more specific class questions. If they’re worried that a certain course might be too difficult, are unclear about a course’s content, or are even afraid that they might not be able to wake up for that early morning class, they can feel free to bring those questions to their academic advisor. They’re happy to talk your student through any concerns they have and to offer them the best advice that they can.

How often should I meet with you?

As juvenile as this question may seem at first glance, it’s important to know how often your student should be meeting with their academic advisor. At larger universities, securing a meeting can be extremely difficult, so meetings are either not required or suggested once a year. At smaller colleges, students may be expected to meet with their academic advisor a couple of times per semester.

Make sure your student is not falling behind, and encourage them to take notes in a planner or phone calendar so they don’t forget when they’re supposed to meet with them again.

What should I do to best prepare myself for life after graduation?

If your student has some inkling of what they want to do once they’ve graduated, it’s best to discuss these plans with their academic advisor now. If your student wants to go on to graduate or professional school, they should inquire about the average GPA and GRE scores of students attending specific schools. Even if they don’t have a particular destination in mind, they can feel free to ask such questions generally.

If your student wants to go right into the workforce after graduation, they should ask their academic advisor where to begin the job search. Chances are they’ll have some great suggestions!

What should I do with my summer?

Summer is a great time to kick back and relax, but students should also be getting some resume building done. Academic advisors can offer suggestions about what to do with the summer. They may be able to suggest internships, jobs, or research opportunities that students wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Even if they can’t offer any new suggestions, they may be able to point your student in the direction of someone who can.

Any other questions your student has!

The academic advisor’s job is to help your student, no matter the problem. If your student has any questions, concerns, or just wants to chat, advisors will be happy to talk with them. Even if your student is not sure if they need help, reaching out to an academic advisor just to be sure can’t hurt, and the more they hear from your student, the better position they’ll be in to write a great recommendation!

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