Academic Advisers

I’m going to be totally off the grid for a week and thought I would pre-post some Daily Deacs that cover some of the questions we frequently get, or topics we wish families (and their students) knew.  Today’s topic is academic advisers.

When new freshmen enroll, they are assigned to an academic adviser (usually a faculty member) and a student adviser (an upperclassman).  Those assignments are made at random.  My own academic adviser was a science professor and I knew I wanted to be an English major. I remember thinking [read: worrying] that my adviser and I would have little in common and why the heck couldn’t I have been given an English professor as an adviser?

There is, of course, method to the madness.  A lot of times, students come in thinking they will major in X but turn out to major in Y.  By having an adviser randomly assigned, it can help students keep an open mind to the MANY major options.  It also doesn’t put students in an awkward situation of having to tell their adviser they do not wish to major in that person’s department after all.

Having an adviser in a different department also stretches our students interpersonally.  I had to figure out how to talk to my adviser and form a positive, constructive relationship even though our interests were vastly different.  I would not have learned nearly as much if my adviser had been an English professor with whom it was easy to form rapport.  As your students progress through college and move toward their future careers, it will be vital for them to know how to form positive, productive working relationships with people, especially ones where they don’t see a ton of commonality.

That said, many students wish to connect early on with representatives from multiple possible majors and minors, and we absolutely encourage this.  It takes a village, so your students can and should seek out other voices and mentors as thinking partners.

A student’s assigned academic adviser is the starting point – and he/she will retain that adviser until declaring a major in spring of sophomore year – but the student can reach out to other advisers as needed.  That might be faculty in a potential major area, or the full-time academic counselors in the Office of Academic Advising, who will always be ready to provide good counsel and recommendations.

Finally, the advising relationship depends a lot on what the student puts into it.  I always tell my advisees that I will be as present – or absent – in their Wake Forest experience as they wish for me to be.  Students always have to have a face to face meeting with their adviser before registering, so that can be all the interaction they have, or they are free to ask for more mentoring, more time, etc.  Like most relationships, the more you put into it, the better results you will have.

— by Betsy Chapman


Categories: advising