Tips for Working with your Academic Advisor at College

Academic advisors have responsibility for approximately 20 students, and they are remitted one hour per week from their 24-hour teaching time-table to perform their duties.

Your college will be trying to get your academic advisor to do as much as possible in the least amount of time. Therefore, their time is very limited as they attempt to spread themselves thinly across a range of competing demands.

The allocation of advisor groups is designed, so the academic advisor teaches you for at least one of your three or four subjects if you are taking A’ levels. That way, the advisor gets to know you and a rapport can be established. When this principle fails for whatever reason, things tend to go wrong.

Without regular interaction between both partners, trust, and mutual understanding has little opportunity to flourish. No matter how skilled the advisor is in exercising their softer skills, or emotional intelligence, you remain to all intense and purposes, strangers.

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So what general tips might be useful in making the relationship as productive as it can be?

1) Keep the advisor informed about your academic progress and any significant personal problems that may arise.

Remember, if the advisor doesn’t know about it, they cannot give you praise when things go well, or offer you advice and support if you’re not meeting expected learning goals, or having difficulties at home.

2) Whilst the advisor will not have the time to meet for a comprehensive discussion very regularly, we see no reason why you shouldn’t send them an email if you have any concerns, or more happily, to celebrate your successes.

As Faculty members are organisationally socialized to respond to this medium, what better way to make sure your advisor advises you, or carries out a task in a timely way, than by dropping them an email.

3) Don’t ignore problems, bury you head in the sand or miss their scheduled appointments as these are comparatively rare opportunities for quality one to one time.

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4) Make sure you or your parents or guardians make the academic advisor the central point of contact with the institution.

This avoids all kinds of misunderstandings, dissatisfaction, and general chaos. Additionally, in times of trouble, it is the academic advisor that the organizational hierarchy wants to hear from and take notice of, not the member of support staff you left a message with, or other teachers for that matter.

5) Remember that your advisor has to answer for your progress and your behavior.

Our advice is to be as honest as possible with them and ask for certain things to remain confidential if you prefer. If you only give half the picture, or mislead the advisor in an attempt to avoid responsibility for something you did or didn’t do and they go out on a limb for you, they can end up looking foolish. The next time you need them in a sticky situation they may be less willing to help.

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Finally, our advice is to try and work with them, not against them. Most advisors want to do a good job out of professional pride, if not through some other more altruistic motivation, so give them a chance.