Whether you are in your first year of school or getting ready to graduate, chances are you have some kind of adviser. Advisers can be invaluable points of contact for students, regardless of the level at which you are studying. Building strong relationships with your adviser can help you make the most of your college experience by introducing you to new opportunities and receiving academic guidance. Learning how to seek out help is one of college's most important lessons, but taking the first step to talk to your adviser can feel intimidating. Use these 15 tips to make the most our of your advising experience!
1. Introduce yourself as soon as you get to school. I know that during your first week back at school, the last thing you want to be doing is tracking down advisers to introduce yourself, but making a connection early sets a positive tone for your entire relationship. It shows a sense of initiative that your adviser will appreciate, especially if they are dealing with dozens of other students.
2. Go to your first meeting prepared with some questions. All advisers are different. My first-year academic adviser loved to talk and have deep, engaging conversations with me, but some of my friends had advisers that seemed like they preferred more professional conversations. Going into your first meeting with a few prepared questions will help you feel confident, while also mitigating the risk of awkward silences.
3. NO QUESTION IS A DUMB QUESTION. Yes, you've heard this saying a million times, but it really applies to dealing with advisers. Keep in mind that they exist professionally to answer your questions. No matter how "dumb" you feel like your question may be, ask it! It is probably more important than you realize, and trust me, advisers have heard it all.
4. To that end, ask the right questions. Asking your academic adviser about the weekend scene at your university right off the bat may not be the best idea. Start with questions you have about classes at school. Which classes will help you fulfill general education requirements? What courses are good introductory classes for your chosen field? Are there any electives your adviser recommends? My first year adviser was the director of the Sociology Department. I had never taken sociology in my life, but I took a course on Media and Pop Culture at her recommendation, and it ended up being one of the most fun classes I had ever taken. Check out our full list of sample questions below!
5. Ask two questions: "What is your favorite aspect of (X university)?" and "What is your least favorite?" Their answers to these questions may surprise you, but I have always found them to be worth asking. Not only do they give you slightly more insight into your chosen school, but they also reveal something about your adviser's priorities, which could help you begin to build a relationship with them.
6. Talk over your schedule with your adviser. Even if they don't ask you to show them your schedule, you should make the initiative to talk it over. I can vividly remember my adviser talking me out of adding an additional class that would have given me a crippling workload second semester, and I have been grateful for that every day since.
7. Go back after your first meeting! If you only meet with your adviser during the first week of the school year, you will not make the most of what could be an influential relationship. Try to drop by at least once every six weeks to ask more questions, or even just to chat. Keeping your face fresh in your adviser's mind will be good for both you, and your adviser.
8. Keep in touch over email. Even if you don't have time to make an appointment to see your adviser, they are still available over email to answer any questions you have that may arise during the school year. Sending an email will not take you more than five minutes, and I am sure you will be glad you did!
9. Offer a handwritten thank you at the end of the year. Academic advisers are too often underappreciated. Build a solid relationship with yours, and offer a handwritten thank you note at the end of the year. Some advisers have advising as a career, and others do it on a volunteer basis. Regardless, your adviser works hard to ensure that you have a positive college experience. A thank you will mean more to them than you can imagine.
10. Know your worth. One of the biggest barriers to asking for advice is feeling as if you are wasting the other person's time by doing so. I promise you are not. They are there to guide you through the college process, and going to them with questions is not a waste of their time. They have chosen to serve as advisers because they love to help students. Know that your questions are valid, and you are worth it.
15 Questions to Ask your Adviser
1. What classes do you recommend for general education requirements?
2. What classes do you recommend for my major?
3. Where can I find information on campus events?
4. Are there any extracurricular fairs on campus? How else can I learn about organizations to join?
5. Where can I find tutoring resources or information on building better study skills?
6. Are there any events you highly recommend attending?
7. What are the most fun things to do around campus?
8. Does my schedule look okay this semester?
9. Where can I go to find information on applying to and attending graduate school?
10. Are there any professors whose classes I should try to get into?
11. What do you recommend on campus for someone interested in (insert your extracurricular or academic interest)?
12. Should I get a job on campus? Which positions have good reviews?
13. Where can I find research opportunities for undergraduates?
14. How is the (insert your major) department here?
15. What is the most important piece of advice you have to help me make the best of my experience?