As a director of academic advising, I’ll admit I may be biased, but research backs me up: the quality of your college experience is greatly enhanced if you receive good academic advising early and often throughout your program.
The challenge as you go about your college search is that, understandably, most schools talk up their great advising programs! Here I’ll provide some tips as to what effective academic advising actually looks like, along with some questions to ask and characteristics to look for when you’re visiting schools.
Schools and programs should provide accurate information on degree requirements, time to degree, and employment opportunities after graduation. Admissions staff and advisers in program areas should be available to prospective students to discuss these items and answer additional questions. Advising at Meredith begins shortly after a student officially chooses Meredith, then continues through the summer and beyond. During your college search, pay attention to how much a school demonstrates their interest in you as an individual – what your interests are, as well as majors in which you might be interested.
As an aspiring college student, look for multiple layers of advising to ensure the proper level of support is available at any turn your journey may take. For example: will you have an assigned faculty or professional adviser? What is the average number of advisees an adviser is responsible for? Is specialty advising available, such as Honors, Pre-Health, Pre-law, etc. Are there peer-advisers who can offer assistance in social adjustment in addition to academic familiarity? During your college search, ask your admissions counselor whether these specialized types of advising are offered.
More than simply helping you choose classes each semester, advisers should learn as much as they can about you – your interests, aspirations, perspectives, etc. Advisers should help you leverage every resource the institution provides. Meredith faculty advisers are required to have been on campus for at least one year prior to advising students. This prepares advising faculty to be an effective resource for their students. When you interact with faculty during college visits, ask them whether they advise students and, if so, talk to them about how the process works at their particular school.
Depending on the size of the school you attend, advising may be the only recurring interaction you have during your time on campus. Creating a close connection fosters a comfortable, supportive quality of life on campus. At Meredith, we use the latest in advising technology to make the process as efficient as possible. This leaves advisers with more time to have in-depth conversations with students. Good faculty advisers are often acknowledged by graduating seniors as being the greatest positive influence on their academic experience.
Advisers will help you select courses, but beyond that advisers should encourage you to take advantage of personal and academic opportunities while understanding how each fit into the “big picture” of a college education. They should help you identify and apply for experiences like study abroad, undergraduate research, internships, and service opportunities. For instance, first-year students at Meredith create academic plans as part of the First Year Experience course. Many of our students double major, have multiple minors, and study abroad. Academic planning makes this possible and gives students ownership of their undergraduate experience.
Some institutions are better than others at supporting diverse student ability and helping you achieve success in college. As you go about your college search, I encourage you to ask questions about academic advising. Specifically, look for advising that is individualized, flexible, and attentive to your specific needs and goals as they inevitably evolve.