Question from a parent on academic advising

Over the weekend, the Parent Programs office received a question from a first year parent, who wondered about how his daughter was assigned to an academic advisor in a different department than the one in which she intends to major. This is a fairly common question. Many parents assume if their student is going to be a biology major, he will be assigned to a biology faculty member as an academic adviser.

I posed the following question to Perry Patterson, Associate Dean of Advising at Wake Forest:  “Why does Wake Forest assign initial academic advisers without regard to students’ initial expression of potential interest in a major?”  He explains:

“There are a number of benefits of not assigning new students to advisers in a proposed major.  New students need to be encouraged to keep an open mind, to explore MANY options, and to consider the possibilities inherent in combining multiple interests.  For many students, choice of major is something that will evolve rapidly during the first months in school.  A good connection with someone outside a main projected interest provides an important educational function in stimulating conversations across individuals with multiple learning styles, modes of thinking, and values.

That said, many students wish to connect early on with representatives from multiple possible majors and minors, and we want to encourage this!  A new major and minors fair will occur on September 29 this year, where students can readily interact with numerous departmental representatives.  In addition, we encourage students to always be on the lookout for ways to develop a full constellation of potential advisers and mentors. 

The lower division adviser should be thought of as a starting point for reaching out to other advisers as may be needed.  In addition, students’ academic counselor in the Office of Academic Advising will always be ready to provide some good leads and recommendations on additional contacts, both before and after the major declaration occurs in spring of the sophomore year.”

Parents, please continue to ask questions by email at and the Parent Programs office will do our best to provide answers. Note that answers will also be archived under the “Q&A” link, which  appears at the top left of the Parents’ Page navigation menu.

Categories: advising


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