Student Advisors – Positive or Negative Experience?

Student advisors may have a pretty bad reputation of ruining your academic career. This is often brought on by just by making a normal human mistake, or just some terrible advising.  This is why the student is responsible for going over their course planning to be sure they are eligible to graduate when they are expected to.    Student advisors will vary from faculty to faculty. Some advisors are excellent and they end up helping you more than you can ever hope for. Unfortunately these types of advisors are hard to find and chances are you aren’t going to have one, especially if you are in a large faculty.  I graduated from a small faculty and we were able to drop in for coffee with our advisors so they knew us at a personal level.  We received top-notch advising because of this, but many students aren’t so fortunate.

One of my brothers was in Computer Science and he was one of the students who had his academic career extended by a year because of a slip up by an advisor.  He wasn’t the only one though, I recall there being around 30 others in the faculty that received the same treatment.  So being up s*** creek without a paddle, he tried fighting it with the other students and like any battle against the university, it didn’t go well for him.  The university just said that it’s the students’ responsibility to double-check everything to ensure they have all the requirements to graduate. Like the vast majority of students, if I’m told by an advisor, who’s full time job is helping students graduate, that I’m good to go I’m going to take his or her word for it.

Related: What Makes A Good Student?

So What Do Advisors Do?

Each faculty will have a master sheet which is a spreadsheet with every course you need to graduate on it.  They look at your transcript and fill in your grades for each course and just tell you if you’re missing one or if you need a higher grade.  It really isn’t difficult work, so ask for one of those sheets and do it yourself to see where you are at.  Student advisors earn their salaries when you transfer into the program late with a pile of courses that aren’t required.  They will take the courses you have already completed and see if it can be used in place of the corresponding required classes.   This involves getting the course syllabus from the class and bringing it to the head of that department you want to major in.  If they say that Course X is acceptable in place of Course Y then you will receive the credit. Normally you need to score higher than a C+ in order to do this.  Universities actually have a dedicated department for this process and it’s known as Course Evaluations at our university.

My Advice

Double-check everything and make a habit to do it all the time.  You’re tossing around thousands of dollars earning that piece of paper so it’s a good practice to make sure you’re doing things right.  Go over the program requirements and match everything up to your transcript and be sure you have the minimum grade in order to gain credit for it. Most of the time you need a C or better, but in some cases a D is satisfactory.  Hopefully you won’t find yourself with too many D’s, but I wasn’t strong in math and I lucked out!  Try to see your advisor once a year to get a second opinion on your course selection. Sometimes you can even have a professor act as your program advisor and you can get a second look from them.  If you struggle in some subjects they might be able to offer you alternatives through distance education.  I passed Financial Accounting by taking it Distance Ed though the University of Athabasca and it was much easier than the corresponding U of M option!

Readers, do you have any memorable experiences with your student advisor (either positive or negative)?

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Wow, got a lot to say here, so bear with me… First, my own adviser sucked. I somehow ended up with a dance teacher for my academic adviser (maybe because I’d enrolled in ballet courses? was a dancer in high school? I definitely wasn’t majoring in the arts), and when I started to doubt my pre-med major, she was really no help in inspiring me – or helping me find other faculty members who would. I dropped pre-med, and I’ve always wondered if I’d have done it – at least so thoughtlessly – with a different adviser. (Not to blame… Read more »

Well, i don’t know much about this but I think the problem with the students is that they feel they don’t need to keep studying because they can get a job and live good enough, at least in USA I think this is what happen because in non developed countries, for example, in Mexico students almost have the obligation to study a career because it is the only way to really get a good job, other way they should open their own business or wait to have a very bad lifestyle. This, of course, doesn’t happen in USA. Anyway, I… Read more »

As someone who used to work in the Registrar’s office, this happens all the time. Students who are expecting to graduate will be furious when they hear they didn’t learn the regulations properly and are forced to take another class to graduate. The worst people to deal with were not the students, but the parents. IF a parent calls, you know you’re in for a battle.

To me, it’s parents getting involved is the ultimate manifestation of helicopter parenting. I don’t support a parent calling in under any circumstances. There is not really much battle to be had at that point is there?

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