Academic advisors can be invaluable resources, advocates, and sources of expertise for college students. Like attending office hours, regular meetings with an academic advisor can make all the difference, especially in students’ first year.
Of course, in order to access these benefits, students will need to invest time and effort to connect with their advisor. With so much potential to make the most of their college experience, it’s important to take that initiative!
College life comes with an increased level of independence, and it’s not always mandatory for students to meet with their advisor. However, in our humble opinion, it should be viewed as essential for all college students. The many advantages to working closely with an advisor make regular meetings an absolute “must!”
How make (and sustain!) a great impression
First things first, college students should make an appointment early in the academic year (and especially as freshman)! Advisors’ schedules are bound to fill up fast. First year students should prioritize meeting with their advisor and ensuring all of their questions are answered ASAP.
It goes without saying that college is a very busy time, and many students can find the adjustment overwhelming. It’s important to remember that they’re not in this alone, and academic advisors can help lighten the load.
For that reason (and many more), we also recommend that students conclude their first appointment by setting a time to follow up in a few months. The more frequently students check in with their academic advisors, the better off they will be! Once or twice a semester is a good start, with more communication as needed. With this on the books, there might well be fewer unwelcome surprises as the year progresses.
What should that first meeting look like? Glad you asked. College is a long-term learning experience. And in order to learn proactively, it’s a good idea to start by asking the right questions!
50 questions every student should ask their advisor
Some of these questions are ideal for first year "freshman" students. Others are excellent questions to bear in mind throughout all four years and ask academic advisors as student progress.
Before their first meeting, students should take time to prepare for a productive discussion. It’s a great idea to arrive with a list of questions and any relevant documents in hand.
Not sure where to start? Use this list as a jumping off point!
Academic questions to ask as a first-year student (and beyond!)
1. What is a reasonable first-year course load?
2. I have no idea what I want to major in: what are some classes you recommend to help narrow things down?
3. When do I need to declare a major?
4. Can I change my major? How?
5. Are there any assessment tests I can take to help figure out my major or future career goals?
6. Will any of my AP test scores fulfill course requirements?
7. Do you have any tips for time management?
8. What courses do you recommend I take in my first year?
9. What campus events should I have on my radar?
10. What is the process to register for classes?
11. How much wiggle room do I have for elective courses?
12. Which student groups align with my interests?
13. What advice would you give first-year students?
14. How do you see our advisor/advisee relationship?
15. Are there campus resources for academic help, tutoring, etc.?
16. If I’m really struggling in a class, what resources are available to me? What can I do?
17. Is my financial aid on track? Are there other scholarship or aid opportunities I can pursue?
18. Academic questions to ask sophomore year (and beyond!)
19. What are some notoriously challenging courses in my major?
20. How do I apply to study abroad? Can I study abroad and still graduate on time?
21. Is it possible to graduate early?
22. Are there honors/accelerated tracks in my major?
23. Which professors do you highly recommend?
24. Which minors might complement or enhance my major?
25. Which courses would you recommend for graduate school?
26. Am I on track to graduate?
27. What goals do you think are reasonable for this year?
28. I want to take on a job/internship this semester—do you know of any flexible courses that might help accommodate that?
29. Can I drop a class? What is the deadline for doing this?
30. Is completing an internship a graduation requirement for my major?
31. Should I adjust my course load this year to accommodate a challenging class or job?
32. Are there any online or summer courses you would recommend?
33. Does my major/area of academic study offer any mentorship programs?
34. What is the best way to ask for letters of recommendation from my professors?
35. My first year of college was too easy (or too challenging). Which courses, or extra steps do you recommend for next semester?
36. How do you think I’m doing? Do you have any suggestions for me?
37. How can I get more involved in my major or academic department?
38. When should I start preparing for the GMAT/LSAT/MCAT/GRE?
39. Will I need to maintain a certain GPA or obtain a written recommendation for a high-level course?
40. Should I be aware of any required courses that are only offered in the spring/fall?
41. Do you think a double major is realistic for me?
42. Do you have any advice for saving money on books and other required materials?
43. Are there any academic/honor societies I can join?
Career questions to ask academic advisors
44. How can I sign up for career fairs and on-campus recruitment events?
45. What sorts of careers can I pursue with my major?
46. Is there a university job posting website or resource I can follow?
47. Are there any job or internship opportunities I can pursue that also earn college credit?
48. What campus resources are available for job hunting, resume review, practice interviews, etc.?
49. What internship or job programs are available for students of my major?
50. What is the best way to apply for an on-campus job?
51. What opportunities should I pursue in order to stand out on future job applications?
Make the most of college and open future possibilities
College is an incredibly exciting time that requires quite a bit of juggling. Academic advisors can help students navigate their studies and have a rewarding four years.
Encourage your student to make the most of every resource available to them, and they’ll be in the best possible position for an amazing college experience!