February 20, 2018
A liberal arts education is not just about getting a degree; rather, college is about learning and growing as a person and figuring out who you are and how you fit in the world. Academic advising is one of the most powerful mechanisms for putting all of these things together. Because academic advising is about your learning, your advisor won't tell you what to do or think, or complete tasks for you; rather, they will provide guidance while you learn.
Advising gives you the opportunity to reflect on present and past academic, co-curricular, and work-study experiences and learn more about yourself through that reflection. As you consider opportunities to engage in the broader world, such as through internships and study abroad courses, your advisor is a valuable sounding board. You can also talk with your advisor about future goals and aspirations while you discern your vocation. By arranging, preparing for, and attending appointments, you are practicing professional skills. Since making progress toward graduation is your responsibility, advising helps as you learn the curriculum and academic policies.
Because advising is part of student learning, you might find it helpful to think about the advising program as a course. Some advisors may provide a syllabus for academic advising; others may not. If you were to design your own syllabus for advising, what elements would you include? For example, what would you read? In the first year, books about making the transition to college might be helpful. The college catalog is an important document to read since it contains information about general education requirements, the curriculum as a whole, and academic policies and procedures. You can find important information about resources and offices on campus on the college website.
What homework would you do to make the most of your visit with an advisor? Depending on the purpose of the meeting, the preparation might be very different. If the meeting is before registration, reading through registration materials carefully, selecting possible courses to take, and working out viable schedules would be expected. Exploring options for study abroad or internships by visiting appropriate offices and web sites, or investigating possible graduate programs (while thinking about why you are making those choices) are also steps that, when taken in advance of a meeting, will make for a more focused and productive conversation with the advisor.
In the midst of busy schedules, taking the time for reflection can be challenging. It is also a critical part of learning! Ask yourself questions like "What courses have I enjoyed the most?" "What have I found most interesting and rewarding?" "What challenges have I faced?" "What strategies did I use to meet those challenges?" "Are there points of intersection between my classroom learning and work-study?" Discussing these types of questions with an advisor can help you learn about yourself, synthesize your learning, strategize for academic success, and set goals and make plans for the future.