Expectations: For You And For Your Advisor

by UMaineCLASAdvisingCenter

A college campus abounds with expectations for college students. As a student, you are expected to show up for class, do assignments, take exams; in short, you are expected to learn. But of course, that is why you are here. The expectation is that you enter college as a student and then leave as an adult with a skill-set that will help make you a productive member of society. Part of how you make this transformation is through the relationships you develop. As a student, you will form relationships with other students, with faculty, and with staff, and learning how to navigate these relationships is part of the learning process. The relationship I am going to discuss today, and one which is rife with expectations, is the one between you and your advisor.

The relationship between the student and the advisor can be one of the most important of the student’s career, as it sets the tone for the student’s experience at the college or university. Unfortunately, students often feel that they completely powerless in their relationship with their advisor, that they are subject to the advisor’s every whim. This is not the case. In fact, students hold considerable power and should have certain expectations for their advisors. The University of Maine believes that all students are fundamentally entitled to the following expectations for their advisors:

1) The advisor should be available. They should be available throughout the semester, not just during the Pre-Registration Period. The advisor should have clearly marked office hours and should abide by those hours. Of course things come up occasionally and the advisor may miss their office hours for a special circumstance. However, if it happens regularly, this is a serious problem. And advisors should be reachable by voicemail or by email, and should respond to any question within a day or two.

2) The advisor should be knowledgeable. They should know university, college, and program policies and procedures, and should know all the deadlines. Importantly, this information should be accurate and up-to-date. And if they do not know the information, they should know where to find it and be able to get it to you in a reasonable timeframe.

3) The advisor should care. This is not to say that they need to be your best friend or spend their every waking moment thinking about how best to help you, nor are they your counselors or tutors; this is a professional relationship. Rather, they should be respectful and considerate in their interactions with you. They should take the time to listen to you and what you have to say.

The reality is that going to college is expensive. Even though the University of Maine System has worked hard to keep costs down, the complete cost of a university education, including tuition and fees, room and board, and other related expenses, is very high. And a student who is making this sizeable investment deserves the best advising possible.

As I said at the start, the student experience is rife with expectations, and much as students should have expectations for their advisors, advisors will also have expectations for their advisees (their students). Just as there are three fundamental expectations that you, the student, are entitled to in an advisor, there are also three expectations that the advisor will have for you.

1) You should know your own program requirements. You should not have to rely on your advisor to know which classes you still have to take in your major, you should know them yourself. Most departments have information sheets in the departmental office. You should also take a look at the Undergraduate Catalog. And you should know where to find the Student Handbook and the Conduct Code.

2) You should be prepared for meetings. Bring a list of issues you want to discuss. If it is a pre-registration meeting, come prepared: bring a filled in General Education Requirements worksheet; if the department provides a worksheet for department requirements, bring in one that is filled out; have some classes in your Wish List that you are interested in enrolling in. Faculty are very busy: they teach, they research and write, they advise, and many serve on committees. They feasibly only have a limited amount of time per student. So make the most of your time with your advisor. If you come in prepared, then there will be more time able to be devoted to serious questions, as they won’t have to spend time looking up your record.

3) Make appointments and keep them. Do not miss appointments. If, for some reason, you are unable to make a scheduled appointment, notify your advisor well in advance. To do otherwise is rude and unprofessional.

Being in college is your time to learn, to grow and develop. You are paying a large sum to be here, don’t let the opportunity slip away. Set your own expectations for what you are looking for from an advisor, bearing in mind what I laid out above. If your advisor is not meeting your needs, do not be afraid to go to the college and request a new advisor. You need to find an advisor that you mesh well with. But remember, the onus is on you. This is your education. Take charge of it.