Staying on Track With Academic Advising

Whether you are a first time freshman or an experienced college student, getting academic advising is one of the smartest moves you can make. Here’s a short list of what an academic advisor can do to save you time, money, and headaches.

Providing practical advice on creating a balanced class schedule that will give you the best shot at excelling. I once knew a student who put off taking four very work-intensive required classes until his last quarter before he planned to graduate. All of them were likely to require several major papers each. He registered for all of them at once, even though he was working two part-time jobs as well. I honestly don’t know what the outcome was, but it was certainly not one of the better choices I’ve known a student to make. Academic advisors can help steer you away from self-defeating scheduling decisions.

Making sure you take classes in the right sequence. Not all classes in a discipline will have formal prerequisites in place to limit registration in non-introductory classes to those who have already taken the introductory class. For instance, my discipline is psychology. Students who register for the second-year personality psychology course without the benefit of taking introductory psychology tend to have a much harder time of it. This is something that a savvy academic advisor will point out to you.

Helping you select classes that keep you moving efficiently toward your goal. This is important whether you are working on general education classes or proceeding through classes in your major. Satisfying general ed requirements can be surprisingly complicated. Take a look at this document from California State University, Fullerton as an example. It’s simple enough at first, but then all heck breaks loose the further you go down the webpage. When you move on to classes in your major, your academic advisor will know valuable stuff like whether a particular required class is only offered once every academic year. This is more common than you might think, so having that information can prevent you from wasting time and money waiting a whole year for the class to come around again.

Sharing information about other valuable campus resources and opportunities. Curious about study abroad? Need an on-campus job? Looking for an internship? Want to do some research with a professor in your major? Your academic advisor might have the inside scoop on these and other gems of campus information. At the very least, he or she should be able to accurately direct you where to go and who to ask.

Giving support, encouragement, and guidance when the going gets tough… or even if things are going great. Academic advisors are there to make your educational journey as smooth a trip as possible. They are great first points of contact when you hit bumps in the road, and they also enjoy hearing about when you passed that tough class, you were selected for the internship they suggested, and the award you earned.

It’s an excellent idea to meet with your academic advisor at least once per semester just to make sure everything is on track. However, if things are not going as well as you like, don’t hesitate to meet with your academic advisor more often.

Academic Advising: 5 Tips For An Ever Changing World

Academic Advising within a higher education institution has a very special place in the life of the adult student. Many graduate level students are non-traditional, and are going back to school during extremely busy times in their lives and/or not so busy times due to the economy.

From getting married, working full time, and raising children, and/or lack of employment, it is of utmost importance that the academic advisor has the ability to understand and relate to the adult student.

Here are my favorite top 5 tips for academic advising in an ever changing and fast paced world:

1. Share Your History and Expertise (if possible): Should you be given the opportunity to provide academic advising within an experienced field of your own, take it and run with it. Academic advisors who have the ‘been there done that’ background have a tremendous amount to offer a student on a professional level from two lenses: experience and knowledge. The personalized experienced advisor can truly make a difference in the lives of their students. Advisors can provide referrals, mentor, share invaluable tips, and will be able to create an ongoing bond due to the commonalities shared. I do believe there are amazing academic advisors who do not share the same career background. However, having that personal knowledge and experience to share with students can provide for life changing outcomes.

2. Be Pro-Active: Reach out to your students before a problem arises. Check early for fires and put them out immediately. It is imperative to assure that students are on the right track and do not run into any major issues. There are various rules that students must follow in regard to transfer credit, course requirements, time limits for degrees, petitions, and more. Most of this information is found in the university catalog; unfortunately, it is a book students usually don’t read. Familiarize yourself with these rules, check on student status, and make pro-active decisions as necessary.

3. Know Your Students: Get to know your students and understand whom they are and what they need. An undergraduate student will have explicitly different needs than a graduate student, as the 2 life stages are polar opposites. If you advise graduate students, be aware that daily life challenges take priority, and your role is to make the higher education process comprehensible, less stressful, and more meaningful.

4. Empathize: Since the age of technology, it seems quite difficult to get hold of a live person when calling a corporation or institution. Be real and be human! Empathize and show compassion. There is nothing unprofessional about showing you care in regard to what your assigned students are going through. An advisor who takes time to understand and listen (rather than hear) will truly create a comfort zone for students. Should you come to a point in which you don’t care; it is time to move on, as you will be cheating your students and yourself.

5. Go The Extra Mile: An advisor, should time be allotted, should go the extra mile if possible. If you see a job posted, have a good referral, or simply know something that will help your students, share it by all means (should your university allow)! A short email or phone call can turn into a job opportunity, a new networking contact or more. Keep giving… it benefits everyone.

An advisor is a provider, mentor and so much more. Life long relationships can be formed during these years. Enjoy the time and privilege to meet so many amazing people.

Academic Advising Economists Create Limited Sets and Quantify Irrelevance to Decision Makers

Not long ago, someone asked me what I’d do to turn around the US economy. Well my answer was quite simple; we need a red magic market committee. “What the hell are you talking about,” he said, “I asked you what you would do to fix the economy if you were in charge.” You see, I run a think tank which happens to operate online, and we talk a lot about economics. However, since he was an academic who advises political leaders on economic affairs, he’d never heard of such a thing.

Indeed, I explained to him that the red magic marker committee would be a group of business leaders both big and small that would go through the rules and regulations concerning business, carefully drawing through entire lines of regulations that made no sense, were too costly, and were just more bureaucratic red tape and/or duplication. He then understood what I was talking about, but he also told me that by having rules and regulations did provide more jobs for professionals; lawyers, consultants, tax advisers, etc. I told him that was nonsense and certainly no excuse for it, but he explained to me that he could show me using mathematics why he was correct.

As a former franchisor founder, having started my first business when I was 12 years old, I thought to myself; what planet is he living on? I don’t need mathematics to explain to me his concept, but he surely needs to get a life, get a job (in the private sector), and consider a stint running his own business for 10 years before he tells me I don’t know what I’m talking about because I’m just a small business person. Some things really look great on paper. Many business plans in fact.

Now that I am semiretired and running this think tank, I come across all sorts of great business plans, with great assumptions, beautiful spreadsheet and awesome proformas with a decent bit of math behind each little box. Of course the problem with writing these business plans is that most of the entrepreneurs take a limited set of facts, and expand upon those facts as if there were no other criteria. The world doesn’t work like that, and that’s why we should be very careful when academics start advising politicians on economic decision-making.

This particular academic advisor had never run a business in his life, and he couldn’t for the life of him figure out why we need to reduce the rules and regulations. It’s almost impossible to argue with someone like that, even using their own math, unless we can take them all the way back to the beginning of their assumptions and show them that they clearly don’t know what they’re talking about, and they’ve quantified irrelevance to the n’th degree. Their reality is not even in this dimension, so their math and data is neither scientific, nor worthy of contention. Please consider all this and think on it.