When your student heads off to college, you may worry that she will get lost in the crowd. It is true that, even in a small college, your student will most likely be on her own more than she was in high school. She will be making her own decisions (some good and possibly some not as good) and she will be responsible for her own academic path. But, no matter how large the institution, she won’t be without help. One major difference may be that she will need to seek that help, it won’t necessarily come looking for her. But the help will be there, and the wise student will take advantage of it.
One of the sources of help with academic decisions may be your student’s Academic Advisor. The structure of the Academic Advising program may vary dramatically from institution to institution (there are many different models), but the basic principle is the same. Each student is usually assigned a faculty or staff member who is there to give the student guidance in making academic decisions. The advisor may also help the student as he considers his personal, professional and educational goals.
Depending on the Academic Advising model used by your student’s college, here are some things that may be true. As a parent, the more you understand about the advising system, the more you can guide your student and encourage him to take advantage of what is offered, and the more comfortable you will be with knowing that your student is receiving some guidance.
- Your student may be assigned an advisor in his major (if he has declared one) or may be advised initially by a first-year advisor and then move on to someone in his major in his second or third year. One important factor is that your student feel comfortable with his advisor, whether or not he or she is in the student’s major.
- Your student’s advisor may be a faculty member or may be a staff member who is a professional advisor.
- Your student’s advisor is a facilitator. He or she is in partnership with your student and can only help if your student takes advantage of his or her knowledge. The initiative should come from your student.
- Your student’s advisor will be able to help your student in several areas. He or she will be knowledgeable about academic requirements, the process of registering for classes, resources available at the institution, and possibly a good source of information about career choices.
- The advisor’s role is just that – an advisor. He will usually guide and advise, helping the student to make informed choices, but it will be up to the student to carry out whatever needs to be done. This is a partnership and the student bears responsibility for carrying through.
- Different advisors have different styles of advising. Some may be more actively involved and some may take a more relaxed approach. It is up to the student to remember to take initiative and assume responsibility, and also to find an advisor with whom she is comfortable.
As a parent, there are a few things that you can do to encourage your student to take full advantage of the Academic Advising arrangement.
- Encourage your student to seek out his advisor and introduce himself early in the semester. Advisors may not know where to find the student, but the student should be able to find the advisor’s office. It is always helpful to put a face and name together. If your student establishes a relationship with his advisor early, then it will be easier to return later when he has a question or problem.
- Remind your student to keep records of courses, requirements, necessary forms, even notes of meetings with her advisor. The student is ultimately responsible for meeting all requirements. She needs to keep track.
- Encourage your student to make and keep appointments with his advisor. The advisor can’t help if he doesn’t meet with the student.
- Encourage your student to plan ahead and write down questions to ask the advisor. Each student is different. The advisor will be able to answer questions, but needs to know what the student’s questions are.
- Remind your student to be aware of all deadlines. Again, the responsibility for knowing deadlines is the student’s. It is not the advisor’s responsibility to check up on the student.
As a parent, there are a few suggestions that may help you as you think about the academic advising process.
- Remember that the advising partnership is between your student and her academic advisor. Although it is certainly appropriate to contact the advisor in an emergency, the advisor expects to work with the student. If you have questions about the advising process, ask your student and let your student contact his advisor.
- Remember that the FERPA regulations apply to the Academic Advisor. Without written permission from the student, she may not discuss the student’s academic record with you.
- Like many other areas of college, the academic advising system is developmental. Your first year student will probably receive much more guidance and attention from his advisor than he will as he progresses. This is appropriate as he assumes more and more responsibility for his own progress.
- Remember that your student will need to take the initiative of working with his advisor. Hopefully, the advisor will have the open door, but the student must take advantage and walk through the door.