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Connect now with your advisor to maximize academic plans

Back-to-school is a busy time for everyone. Whether you are a student, faculty, administrative services professional, or directly support someone in one of the above categories, your mind is full of back-to-school information. New courses (4-6 different classes in some cases), scheduling conflicts, job responsibilities, social commitments, there are a lot of new and different moving pieces that must be tamed into a predictable routine of daily logistics. All this newness is a part of a student’s learning curve, and it’s not easy to retain or make sense of it all. Yet a student that can quickly adapt, and maintain daily activities in context with larger goals for their college experience, can make the most rewarding time out of their college experience.

If you saw my last blog post on meeting with your Academic Advisor to kick off the new academic year, you’ll know the good news on making the back-to-school wrangle possible is that no student needs to be alone in this process. This is one purpose an Academic Advisor serves: to support course selection and planning for your academic involvement.

The first few weeks of the new academic year are behind us. An Advisor’s flurry of tasks involving schedule changes, confirming required courses, lifting holds, and approving that degree requirements will be met by the end of the term, have started to subside. While the following dates are particular to my university, the academic year cycle at many colleges is similar. For me, next term’s courses for Spring 2017, are posted to our registration system on October 10th. At that time, students have a few weeks to read through course offerings and plan their new schedule, before the Registration frenzy begins again on November 1st. Come mid-October, traffic flow through my office turns into a revolving door, and there’s often a wait line for my office hours. For so many reasons, especially if a student seeks mentorship and connection through unrushed discussion of their interests and available opportunities, now is a great time to connect with an Academic Advisor to maximize extended academic plans.

My calendar is open and available for 45 minute appointments. These are extended time slots where students are provided individual attention to discuss their academic aspirations, concerns, and life circumstances that impact their progress in college. This is a valuable opportunity to discuss personal and professional goals, interests, extra- and co-curricular involvement, timeline to degree completion, and post-graduate plans.

Research on college student persistence and retention has demonstrated the value of connection with a trusted adult campus affiliate. I have chosen to make academic advising my career because I believe in the value of education and want to make those human connections that can make a difference in someone’s life. The thing is, the way my current system is setup, I need to have students seek out my support. I am happy to engage in the kind of valuable discussion that provides true mentorship, and there are some periods throughout the year when I have more availability to that kind of work. Late-September to mid-October, and most of February, are key times I want to encourage students to seek their advisor as a mentor.

I work primarily with declared Humanities majors after they have completed their first year. Students at various points in their degree progress have different needs. Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors generally have particular questions based on how many credits they have earned thus far. Below I outline many of the particular needs required by students at various points of their degree progress. In following blog posts, I will expand on my advising work as it is tailored to each level of degree progress. I aim to have this outline support students and their parents in considering the types of questions valuable to consult with an Academic Advisor.

Sophomore:

  • Major progress

  • Sequenced courses

  • Map out degree progress to meet grad timeline

    • Plan each term for mix of major, gen-ed, and elective requirements

  • Discuss double major, minor, certificate options

  • Change of major possibilities

  • Study abroad (if interested/eligible)

  • Extra curricular involvement

Junior:

  • Making the most of major and co-curricular involvement

  • Favorite courses/instructors thus far

  • internships/ job experience/ summer plans

  • Honors track (if interested/eligible)

  • Portfolio development

  • Post-grad ideas

Senior:

  • Wrapping it up- intentions for final year

  • Meeting degree requirements

  • Fulfilling leadership positions while preparing for transition

  • Senior year commitments and work-life balance

  • Marketable job skills/interests and professional intentions

  • Discuss post-grad plans

These are general agenda items I aim to cover with each student depending on where they are at in their degree progress. Certainly, each student is in a unique situation and may have reason to make an appointment with me other than the general needs I serve. And for the most part, covering the above specified topics appropriate for a student’s level, or providing referral for additional campus services, quickly fills my 45 minute appointment sessions.

The bottom line is, I recommend for all college students to meet with their Academic Advisor for a scheduled session at least once per year, and ideally every semester. The student must take initiative to establish and build a relationship with their advisor, and if the time is invested to do this, the benefits can be invaluable.

Katie Vahey Gaebler, M.A., Ph.D.

Katie Vahey Gaebler, M.A., Ph.D.

I am a professional Academic Adviser, having worked with undergraduates and graduate students since 2001. I specialize in providing personalize support for students experiencing transitions in their education. My goal is to help you consider what advanced educational options, and next steps in academic and career pursuits, are best for you.
Katie Vahey Gaebler, M.A., Ph.D.

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About the author: Katie Vahey Gaebler, M.A., Ph.D.
I am a professional Academic Adviser, having worked with undergraduates and graduate students since 2001. I specialize in providing personalize support for students experiencing transitions in their education. My goal is to help you consider what advanced educational options, and next steps in academic and career pursuits, are best for you.