Using Academic Advisors Can Help Students Stay On Track Toward Graduation

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Many students see getting to college as the ultimate goal when it is really the beginning of the next journey. Continuing education after high school brings new pressures and demands. For a student who is living away from home for the first time, the impact of the first year of college can be so intense as to drive them away from their education. Nationally, 77% of first-year students return to their school for the second year. That means that 1 out of every 4 college students is likely to crumble under the demands of a college education. In Iowa, those numbers are better, with over 85% of students returning. But that still means that almost 1 in every 5 college students are giving up on their dreams of a college degree.

Students face a wide-range of pressures, including emotional, social and financial issues, but often overlooked is making the academic adjustment to college. While students may feel like they are struggling through college alone, almost every college campus offers an essential, yet underutilized, resource: Academic advisors.

Academic advisors can help students stay on track for graduation by assisting students in registering for classes and often offer a vast wealth of knowledge regarding classes, graduation requirements, internship opportunities, job hunting and industry contacts in a student’s field of career interest. Here are some tips to help students get the most out of working with an academic advisor:

Schedule appointments well in advance. During class registration, advisors are extremely busy. Email them well before a proposed appointment date and be flexible. Realize that advisors meet with several students, in addition to teaching courses or conducting research.

Visit advisors more than once a semester. Students who only go to see their advisor to register for classes are missing out on a great opportunity to get real-world advice from a professional. By letting academic advisors get to know their interests, students will find advisors offering more insightful advice on professors, scheduling and long-term goal planning.

Research ahead of time. Having information ready for an academic advisor meeting will allow students to get the most out of their time with their advisor. Students who bring items such as their degree audit/degree progress report and research program and class requirements will not only be more efficient, but show their advisor that they are serious about their goals. This kind of preparation will allow for the appointment time to focus on discussing more complex issues or questions.

Come prepared. Have a list of questions written down to make the most use of appointment time. This lets the academic advisor more readily point students to critical information, help them better understand administrative processes and academic programs and connect them to valuable resources.

Choose the appropriate office. While academic advisors are there to help students by offering knowledge on a wide variety of subjects, they won’t have the answer to every question. Students should keep in mind that other on-campus resources such as career services, tutoring assistance, financial aid office and others may be a better source for some information than the academic advisor. Seeking the opinion of friends and peers might also help determine what professor would best suit a student’s learning style.

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