A question we get asked often here in the Advising Center is: “Why should I meet with my advisor?” Or, what I hear, since I work with transfer students who meet with me in addition to their faculty advisor: “I’ve already met with my faculty advisor, why should I meet with you?” These are fine questions. Students are rightfully protective of their time; in addition to their academic work (theoretically the main reason they are here in college), they have social relationships to maintain (an integral part of the college experience, teaching interpersonal interaction). Thus, in their free time, students don’t want to have to do something that they don’t feel is useful for them or that they feel will waste their time.
The reality is that students will only get as much out of an advising meeting as they let themselves. A popular refrain amongst advisors is that advising is teaching. And just ask any teacher or college instructor/professor and they’ll tell you, it’s near impossible to teach someone who doesn’t want to learn. Thus, a student who comes to meet an advisor, who feels they already know it all, that the meeting is a waste of their time, unless they open their thought and make themselves receptive, they won’t learn and they won’t be advised. And they’ll miss out. Miss out on what? That’s what I’m here to tell you.
1) Advisors are aware of the many resources available on campus: academic, personal, and professional. They can guide you to those which would be best for you, to help you in your current situation. You should consider your advisor(s) as a hub of information. Here at the University of Maine, we have numerous available resources, whether for problem situations or just day to day living. See my previous posts on Important Resources, the Tutor Program, and the Career Center to get a taste of what’s out there.
2) Advisors can help make sure you’re taking the correct courses. Some majors have important building-block courses, all of which are required before you can move on to upper level courses. I’ve had students in such majors who resisted coming to see me for more than a semester, and when they finally did, we found that they had not begun taking the building-block courses. Over the next few semesters, work on their major ground to almost a halt, as they were able to only take one course in their major a semester until all these courses were completed. This effectively added an extra year to their college experience. With the rise costs of education, that’s just not economically feasible for most students.
3) Advisors can help you understand all the University’s General Education requirements and help you monitor your progress in completing them. This is important on two fronts. First, your advisor can help you choose the classes that are most relevant to you and your major and/or minor that also fulfill requirements, or that you find most interesting (you’re in college, you should take at least a few classes purely because you find the topic interesting!). Secondly, your advisor can help make sure you get all the requirements completed before graduating, so that you’re not stuck with a surprise a month or two before graduation of having one or more General Education requirements left uncompleted.
4) Advisors can help you set up an educational plan. Some majors have very regimented schedules which allow for little deviance if you plan to graduate in four years. Your advisor will help make sure that you’re following that plan. Conversely, there are other programs are very open and allow for a great deal of personal customization in your coursework. Again, your advisor will help you stay on track, so that in spite of the meandering path you may take, you still end up with the necessary requirements to graduate.
5) Though it may seem simplistic, if you are undecided or confused about what major is best for you, or unhappy with your current major and debating a change, your advisor can help you explore the different possibilities that are available to you and direct you towards resources that could help you make a decision. Again, check out my previous post on Steps For Choosing A Major to get an idea of ways we can help.
6) And finally, going to college can be very fun, but it can also be hard. Going to a new school, in a new place, surrounded by new people, and facing new standards of rigor can be a very daunting task. If you let them, your advisor can help you find your place amidst all this newness.
That, of course, is the trick of it. Your advisors can only do these things if you let them. You have to be open to letting someone help you. Remember, we don’t want to waste your time; if it’s wasting your time, it’s wasting our time, and we’re much too busy to purposefully waste time. We’re here because we want to help you!