Build a Relationship With My Advisor? Why?
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Note: This article speaks about forming a relationship with your academic advisor. If you have a faculty advisor, the message is still the same.
As a college advisor, I know firsthand why it’s so important to build a relationship with your advisor. Too often, students only see their advisors once or twice a year. This is unfortunate because college advisors are a great resource. In an ideal world, all college advisors would have a manageable caseload of 100 students or less, and all students would visit with their advisors multiple times per semester.
That’s only one side of the equation, though. Students need to understand the importance of the student-advisor relationship! There have been students on my caseload over the years that I wish I would have seen in my office more often, but they didn’t “get it.” Hence, why I am writing this post. I want you to “get it” so you communicate with your college advisor regularly!
While I was a TRIO Coordinator for almost ten years, I was incredibly blessed to have only 40 advisees. Having a smaller caseload allowed me to build wonderful relationships with my students because I had more time to devote to each of them.
Even though my title was “TRIO Coordinator”, at the end of the day, I was – for lack of a better term – a life coach to the students who needed me to be there for them in that capacity. I was not a college advisor that met students only to check-in with them once a semester and get them registered for the following semester.
I’m lucky to have built strong relationships with the majority of my students. The students who did not come into my office were typically self-sufficient and earned pretty decent grades. Of course, I also had students who avoided me at all costs because they were struggling in their courses. Both groups of students would have benefited from seeing me more often, so I am writing this post with them in mind.
I will be using the term “college advisor” for the remainder of this post. If you don’t have a dedicated advisor on your campus (or you don’t really connect with your advisor if you do have one), have someone in mind that you could form a relationship with to help you progress through your college experience. This particular someone needs to be a professional staff member at your institution. Do not depend on a friend, family member, or fellow student for this role.
Also, keep in mind that you may have what is called a “faculty advisor”. That person would be an instructor in your major field, and they are an incredible resource to you! While they may not be able to assist you with everything you read about here, they should be able to point you in the right direction for assistance.
6 Important Reasons to Build a Relationship With Your College Advisor
1. You will have someone to go to… for everything.
College advisors should all have psychology degrees (we don’t, but we should) because we help students through a LOT of different situations. I had an open-door policy, and it was taken advantage of (in a good way) by most of my students.
I’ve helped students with the following things. This list is by no means exhaustive; 13+ years of advising brings with it countless situations.
- Performed mock interviewing
- Assisted with financial aid paperwork
- Supported a mom after the stillbirth of her baby that was due in less than a week 🙁
- Explored career options
- Compared digestive issues (***see note below)
- Supported students through romantic relationship breakups
- Coached apprehensive students on how to speak with instructors
- Taught a student how to address an envelope
- Helped students gain more self-awareness
- Taught the power of personal responsibility
- Compared award letters to different 4-year universities
Unfortunately, advisors with large caseloads will not be able to do all of these things due to lack of time, but you never know unless you ask!
***This is one that I love telling people about because it shows just how close I became with some of my students. This particular student was dealing with IBS-C symptoms. She had the genius idea of taking her colonoscopy prep (magnesium citrate & Dulcolax) and then traveling 45 minutes away from home to Bass Pro Shops where she ended up staying in the bathroom for longer than she cared to admit. She didn’t think it would “kick in that fast”. HAHA! I loved her so much. That conversation had us laughing so hard we were both in tears.
My point is – college advisors are not on staff to only help you with course registration. They are so much more than that!
2. Best Resource On Campus
Your college/faculty advisor can be your best resource on campus. I know I was for all of my students. I was fortunate in that my institution was small enough that I knew 99% of everything happening. I was able to keep my students informed and could answer almost any question they had. When I didn’t know the answer, I knew the person to ask, and I would call them while the student was still in my office.
College advisors have a wealth of knowledge, and it far exceeds the boundaries of their office walls. They understand policies and procedures that may seem like a foreign language to students, and they can pass on important scholarship information to their caseload of students to try and give them a leg up on the competition. College advisors – if as passionate about their jobs as I am – will do everything in their power to help their students build bright futures.
3. Graduate School Reference
Is a master’s degree in your future? If so, you’re going to need some pretty strong reference letters. Guess what. If you build a strong relationship with your college advisor, he/she will be able to write you a great reference letter!
I also encourage you to form relationships with the instructors in your field of interest as soon as possible, as reference letters from instructors can have a bigger influence on the graduate school’s admission committee.
4. Job reference
College advisors can also be great job references for you. I’ve been a job reference for many students. I could talk about their character, dependability, demeanor, how well they did with time management, etc. College advisors (or anyone else on staff) cannot speak about what grades you received in school, but if the student was strong academically, I will emphasize how disciplined and serious they were about their studies.
5. Scholarship reference
This is a huge one. I’ve helped students earn hundreds of thousands of dollars during my advising career. I’ve written countless reference letters, and if I know you pretty well, I put more than enough effort into your scholarship reference letter to make it as kickass as possible.
I have written reference letters for students that I didn’t know very well. While I can easily talk about the type of students they are, it’s harder for me to talk about their character, personality, etc.
If two of my students were competing for the same scholarship and my scholarship reference letter was the determining factor… 100% of the time, the student I know better is going to end up receiving the scholarship.
Example: One year, I wrote four reference letters for the same scholarship(s).
- Two of the students I knew very well. (Students A & B)
- The other two students I didn’t know as well. (Students C & D)
- Students A & B both ended up with a $10,000 scholarship and a $6,000 scholarship ($16,000 each)
- Student C received the $10,000 scholarship
- Student D did not receive either scholarship (she was actually a stronger student than Student B and C!)
Do you see the importance of building a relationship with your college advisor?
6. Course Registration
Of course, I cannot dismiss the value that college advisors have regarding course registration. Advisors are the people you should go to 100% of the time when developing your graduation plan. Your advisor should know the sequence of classes and which elective courses fit best with your career plans.
Planning accurately is especially important when transferring to a 4-year university. There will be specific courses your transfer institution will want you to complete before starting classes there, and sometimes figuring out everything you need for a smooth transition isn’t easy to decipher. For example, if you want to transfer to XYZ University for business, that program may require Calculus I & II. Depending on what type of business you’re going to go for, you may need to take Calculus III. Your college advisor can help you with all of this.
That being said, it is still your responsibility to make sure that all of the boxes are being checked and you are taking the right classes to graduate and/or transfer. Your advisor is human and can make mistakes.
Luckily, I only made one mistake in my 13+ years of advising. Unfortunately, that mistake prevented my student from graduating when he had planned. Fortunately, though, he did not plan to transfer the following semester.
He did not place any blame on me whatsoever because he understood that he should have double-checked things on his own. That is what owning personal responsibility looks like!
There are other reasons building a relationship with your college advisor is a good idea. What are your reasons? Have you seen the benefit of building your advisor-student relationship yet? If so, tell me about it in the comments! If not, tell me about that, too!