Tips for Parents

How to Make the Most of an Academic Advisor’s Guidance

College is an incredible investment of time and finances. Parents of college students have to find the balance between ensuring that their students are making the most of their experience while also allowing them independence to make mistakes and figure it out on their own.

Academic advisors provide an important role that parents value but can’t fill themselves. Most universities have professors or other staff members who advise students on classes, career decisions and other academic issues.

Consider the following tips to making the most of the relationship between student and academic advisor:

1. Be proactive. Your student should contact his advisor and meet him in person. By establishing a relationship from the beginning, your student will feel more comfortable to go to the advisor with questions or concerns as they come up. Scheduling an initial meeting and showing up prepared will also help the advisor to know and remember your student, so when internship or other opportunities come up, your student will be more likely to be considered or contacted.

2. Be prepared. When it’s time to meet with the academic advisor, encourage your student to have a list of questions. Review the course catalogue, tentatively schedule out prerequisites and required courses and discuss what goals your student has in the upcoming year. Examples of goals for the year are: getting an internship, applying to study abroad, or volunteering. Most academic advisors answer questions ranging from graduation requirements, how to register for classes, gaining work experience, and specific degree plans.

3. Be open. Remind your student that the academic advisor’s advice is valuable. His recommendations for when to decide on a major, how, and when to secure an internship, what course load to take, and how to start planning a career path will only be helpful if your student listens and follows the advice that makes sense to him.

4. Be supportive (that means you!). As a parent, you can and should discuss these tips with your student, but that’s where your involvement ends. Because of FERPA regulations, the advisor can’t share academic records with you. And because your student is gaining independence and learning this process on his own, you shouldn’t contact the academic advisor anyway. Your student must take the initiative and stay engaged in order to benefit from an academic advisor’s guidance.
Trust in your student to make the right decisions for himself as opportunities present themselves. The more proactive, prepared, open, and supportive you are; the more likely your student will confide in you throughout his college experience.

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