Making the Most of Advising Sessions

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The college wishes your interactions with your academic advisor and faculty mentors to be as successful and comprehensive as possible. You and your advisor each have responsibilities to fulfill in order to make this happen.  As a student, you know your time is valuable.  You must realize that the same is true for faculty and staff. They see many students every day and may not have sufficient time to discuss every issue you may want to talk about. This section is here to help you plan sessions with your advisor to make the most of the time you have.

You can expect your advisor to:

  • Actively listen to your concerns and questions
  • Provide you with accurate academic and curriculum information
  • Serve as a referral source for useful resources (academic support, counseling & psychological services, career services, international opportunities, LGBTQI services, etc.) 
  • Support you in making positive life decisions
  • Respond to email sent from your CU-Boulder email account in a timely manner

Your advisor expects you to:

  • Take responsibility for the impact of your decisions and actions
  • Learn college and university policies
  • Read and respond to official CU-Boulder emails in a timely manner
  • Arrive on time to your advising appointment
  • Prepare for your advising appointment by being ready to discuss course options, having questions to ask, and researching opportunities and resources in advance
  • Use your email account for all academic correspondence
  • Use the online appointment scheduling system or otherwise contact your advisor if you need to cancel your appointment

Five main reasons that students visit advisors or other faculty:

  • Assistance from the faculty with their course
  • General academic advice about which courses would be most beneficial in achieving professional goals
  • Advice on meeting curriculum and graduation requirements
  • Professional advice and assistance relating to career goals
  • Assistance locating appropriate academic or personal support services

Your faculty have regular office hours which are usually posted. If you need to see them for help with course material, you should make every attempt to meet with them during those posted hours. This is the time they have set aside to concentrate exclusively on students’ questions. It is still possible to meet with your professor even if you have a legitimate conflict with their office hours. If there is a reason you cannot be there at that time, you should contact your professor to make an appointment for a mutually agreeable time.

Before your visit, give careful consideration to exactly what kind of help you need. Make sure you have made a sincere effort to do the homework or read the assigned chapters before you ask for help with the material. It is frustrating for instructors to have a student ask for help with homework he or she has obviously not attempted to do. It is important you compile either a mental or written list of specific questions.  Although you may feel that you “just don’t understand” the material or that “this book is so bad nobody could understand this stuff”, it is important to keep in mind that these types of generalized complaints are very difficult starting points for your professor to work with. Approach faculty office hours the same way you approach solving any engineering problem. The more clearly a problem is defined, the easier it can be to solve. 

When visiting an acdemic advisor for any of the other reasons listed above, the same sort of advice holds. Again, the more specific and thought-out your questions, the better the answers you receive will be. This is particularly true when you are asking about curriculum requirements. For instance, instead of asking “Would a communications course count as a humanities elective?” ask “Will COMM 2300 count as a humanities elective?”  If you ask the first question and you happen to catch the advisor on a good day, he or she is going to reply that it depends on the exact course you have in mind. If you catch them when they are busy or distracted, they are going to give you a quick “yes” or “no,” either one of which may be wrong depending on the course you had in mind. Just remember, you are the one who is responsible for selecting the right courses, so be sure you state your questions precisely.

If you go in during office hours or at a previously arranged time, that advisor owes you his or her undivided attention. Of course, if there are a number of students waiting, the advisor may not be able to give you all the time you think you need, but most are willing to extend their office hours as necessary. If the advisor cannot hold regular office hours for a period of time, he or she should notify you and let you know when those office hours will resume.

Now that you are in college, you are considered an adult and are expected to take responsibility for seeking out the advice and help you need.  University personnel are expected to be able and willing to give you the tools you need to successfully pursue your academic goals.  However, you are the one who will have to use those tools; no one is going to do it for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – the faculty and staff of CU-Boulder are here because they have a true commitment to education and want to see students succeed.  Part of your education is determining what you need and then finding out how to achieve it. If you do your part, your advisors and professors will be more than willing to do theirs.

> See a list of the college’s Undergraduate Academic Advisors

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CUEngineering:  A publication for alumni and friends. Read the 2016 edition of CUEngineering magazine here.

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