When you register for college classes, you’ll have the opportunity to meet with your college academic advisor. This meeting is likely the first of many you'll have with your advisor during your college career. That's because your academic advisor is a valuable resource you can rely on throughout your educational journey.
You’ll make the most of each meeting by knowing what questions to ask.
But first, what is a college advisor?
A college academic advisor helps students with their academic planning. They may be a professional staff member or part of the faculty. They advise students about selecting majors and minors, and make sure students meet all the requirements for graduation.
College advisors also assist with scheduling and planning classes, course selection, and will help you apply for graduate school or enroll in special programs.
In other words, your academic advisor is a person committed to helping you graduate. They will be part of your support system throughout your college career.
What are some other examples of how my college advisor can help me?
Your college academic advisor can help you with nearly every aspect of your education. They will play an active role in your educational career, and can help you as follows:
- Work with you to define and develop realistic plans.
- Meet with you to help adjust courses and plan for upcoming semesters.
- Review (and revise, if necessary) your long-term educational plan.
- Monitor your progress toward your goals.
- Discuss the relationship between your coursework and your career field.
- Explain your college’s policies and requirements.
- Follow up with you if you’re placed on academic probation.
- Approve your course registration schedule, class drops, withdrawals, major changes, and graduation requirements.
- Inform you about and refer you to other resources when necessary.
- Remain available to you for questions throughout each semester.
- Provide updated information on available courses, prerequisites, and available graduate options.
Can I change my college advisor?
Most colleges and universities allow you to change your advisor. Typically, you don’t have to explain why – you simply need to fill out a form and let your school’s administration know that you want to make a switch.
Students commonly change academic advisors. Their reasons range from not feeling a connection with their assigned advisor to feeling they're not getting the right guidance. You'll need to change advisors too if yours goes on sabbatical or takes another form of extended leave.
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What should I ask my college advisor?
When you meet with your advisor, knowing what questions to ask can help you further your goals. Some of these questions include:
Here’s a closer look at each of these questions – and how your advisor’s answers will help shape your academic path.
- Are there financial aid options available to me?
- What resources are there for me to use?
- What if I want to continue my education after earning my undergraduate degree?
- How long will it take to complete this degree path?
- Are my plans realistic?
- How flexible is this major?
- Are there electives I should (or can) explore?
- What are the toughest courses in this major?
- How do I proceed if I’m struggling with a course?
- What minor would be most beneficial for my career path?
- Is an internship required for this major?
- Am I on track to graduate?
- Should I take online courses as well?
- What academic goals should I set for myself?
- Do you have any advice or tips for me?
Ask your advisor: Are there financial aid options available to me?
Your advisor should be up-to-date on financial aid programs and opportunities available to students.
Some students, such as the children of military veterans or those with parents who receive financial assistance from the state, are often eligible for specialized programs; others are eligible for more generalized programs and opportunities. It’s always a good idea to ask your advisor about new financial aid and student loan programs.
Ask your advisor: What resources are there for me to use?
Your school likely has a wide array of resources available, including tutoring, personal counseling, and academic services.
The key to getting a good answer to this question is having a good working relationship with your advisor; the more they know about you, your goals, and your coursework, the better equipped they will be to provide you with access to the resources you need to succeed.
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Ask your advisor: What if I want to continue my education after earning my undergraduate degree?
Your advisor will be able to explain whether continuing your education will be necessary or beneficial to you, and can help you apply to graduate programs.
They can also help you understand what’s needed to get a job in your field, such as clinical experience, state licensing, or other requirements. It’s your advisor’s job to help you reach your academic goals by providing guidance and assistance along the way.
Furthermore, you can also ask them how to fund your graduate degree
and what options might be available to you. Even if your academic advisor doesn't have the exact answer, they may be able to point you in the direction of someone who does.
Ask your advisor: How long will it take to complete this degree path?
Every degree program is different (and similar degrees can follow different paths at various colleges). Let your academic advisor know what your goals are so they can help you plan accordingly – and know how long it’ll take you to reach those goals.
Ask your advisor: Are my plans realistic?
Your academic advisor’s primary goal is to help you get what you want from your educational career, which means you should ask if your plans are feasible.
If you’re trying to take two extra college courses while working a part-time job, for example, your advisor will let you know how tough it’s going to be – and may be able to help rearrange your schedule so that you can meet all your obligations.
Ask your advisor: How flexible is this major?
Every major is different, and some offer more flexibility than others do.
For example, majors that require a certain number of mathematics and science courses may be less flexible than a liberal arts degree when it comes to choosing classes and meeting prerequisites. Your college academic advisor will be able to help you with this.
Ask your advisor: What electives can I explore?
Generally, you can choose a handful of electives you’ll enjoy – even if they don’t align with your major. However, in some disciplines, it pays to take electives that are directly related to your major.
Your advisor can give you the guidance you need to choose electives that you’ll enjoy and that will further your academic career.
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Ask your advisor: What are the toughest courses in this major?
Every advisor has a good idea on which classes create stumbling blocks for students, and yours can let you know where you’re likely to have to work harder.
Some classes are just difficult, and there’s no getting around it – so it pays to know what you’re getting into ahead of time and to prepare which classes will require diligent studying.
Ask your advisor: What can I do if I’m struggling with a course?
Your academic advisor can point you toward helpful resources if you’re having a hard time with a particular course.
For example, if your school offers tutoring options, your advisor can help you get what you need by referring you to the right department.
Ask your advisor: What minor would be most beneficial for my career path?
Because your academic advisor wants you to succeed in school and in your chosen career field, they are a great resource when it comes to declaring a minor.
In some fields, choosing a minor that complements your major is essential – and your advisor will help you make the right decision when it’s time.
Ask your advisor: Is an internship required for this major?
Some majors require an internship, clinical experience and other practical, hands-on experience, and you need to know if yours is one of them before you dive in headfirst.
Your advisor will let you know what’s required to complete your degree well before it’s time to graduate. They can also provide you with a range of options so you can choose the path that’s right for you.
Ask your advisor: Am I on track to graduate?
Your advisor will keep tabs on your academic performance throughout your college career. A good advisor will check in with you periodically, but even if that doesn’t happen, you’ll most likely need to make a trip to see them each semester. You should always ask if you’re still on track to graduate and reevaluate your plans as necessary.
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Ask your advisor: Should I take online courses as well?
Sometimes online courses are a great alternative to in-person classes, particularly if you’re working or have other obligations while you’re in school.
Your advisor can give you guidance on which classes might be better to take online and those you’ll likely need to take in a physical classroom.
Ask your advisor: What academic goals should I set for myself?
Because your college advisor knows exactly how your school operates, what the classes are like, and what you need to do to earn your degree, they are the best person to ask about the goals you should set for yourself. If you're hoping to get all your clinical experience out of the way in your junior year, for example, your advisor will know if that’s feasible or allowable – and will be able to explain why.
Ask your advisor: Do you have any advice or tips for me?
Perhaps the most important thing you can ask your advisor is whether they have any advice or tips for you. Sometimes advisors don’t want to overstep their bounds and provide you with unsolicited advice – even if that advice could be tremendously helpful – so when you ask, you open the door to more opportunities.
Your advisor’s primary goal is to see you graduate and earn your degree. They have the experience, knowledge, and qualifications to help you make that happen.
Meeting with your college advisor is extremely beneficial, even if you don’t know what to ask. However, if you ask the right questions, you can get more from your college experience – and you can be more successful in your educational and post-educational careers.