Academic Advisers for New Students

Very important as our August 1 deadline for COVID compliance looms: today a message went out to students who have still not provided COVID documentation, as well as to their familiesPlease, please be sure to check with your student and ensure they have checked their Student Health Portal that their COVID documentation is present (or they have an approved religious or medical exemption, which is visible on the My Profile > Immunization History tab, or have indicated they need an International Student Vaccine Extension) and are in compliance with our policy. The stakes are high here: students who are not in compliance by August 1 are in danger of being removed from their housing assignment and course schedule. Even if you think your student has done it, please check anyway to be safe. Also, please ask your student NOT to send in duplicate records; only have your student submit a record if they are not in compliance.

There is also information about parking at Deacon Station and Crowne Apartments that was sent to those students today.

I also wanted to share some insight on new students and academic advising as we close out the week. When new students enroll, they are assigned to a lower division academic adviser (usually a faculty member, but sometimes a staff member) and a student adviser (sophomore, junior, or senior). 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, a 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. No matter who their lower division adviser is, all academic advisers have been trained in our curriculum requirements and are well poised to help first year students navigate the course selection process.

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 a 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 potential majors or 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 they will retain that adviser until declaring a major in spring of sophomore year. But students can reach out to other advisers as needed: that might be faculty in a potential major area, or the full-time professional 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. We treat students as young adults and expect them to communicate with us when they need something, and most of the time ‘no news is good news.’ In my experience, when I have reached out to my new student advisees en masse to ask how they are doing, very few of them respond – and that’s OK. That typically means that everything is going fine and they aren’t in need of my help.

Be assured that students have to have a face-to-face meeting with their adviser this fall before registering for spring semester classes, so there is always at least one check-in required. That might be all the interaction a given student has with their adviser, or they are free to ask for more mentoring, more time, etc. if they want/need it.

Like most relationships, the more you put into it, the better results you will have. Your students will find the balance that works best for them.

 

— by Betsy Chapman, Ph.D. (’92, MA ’94)

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