College Advising 101

How Does Advising in College Work?

What does a college advisor do?
A good advisor is first and foremost a teacher. Like the professors whom you will meet in Wellesley’s classrooms, your Faculty Advisor as well as all your other advisors hope to open your mind to new possibilities and provide the information you will need to choose the academic path that is best for you. A very important part of their job is to ask you questions and get to know you, because good advising is grounded in a sense of the student as a whole person. You will have many advisors over your time at Wellesley, and they will give you guidance in different areas. The best among them, whether they are faculty, students, or administrators, will see themselves as having a role in your education. Good advisors help you learn about yourself, and in doing so they share in Wellesley’s mission to educate women who will make a difference in the world.

What does a college advisor NOT do?
Your advisor will not choose your courses for you. Your advisor will not choose a major for you, but should help you reflect on your academic experiences in ways that can help inform your choices of courses and, later, a major. Your advisor will not tell you which extracurricular activities are the right ones for you, but should ask you questions about your interests, your past experiences, and the new things you would like to try while you are in college in ways that can help you decide what activities are best for you. Your advisor will not solve academic or personal problems for you, but should be able to help you find your way to the resources that can best assist you if you are experiencing some difficulty.

What is an advising meeting like?
Meetings will vary in purpose, from very general, “get-to-know-each-other” meetings that can explore many areas of shared interests and different experiences, to very short meetings that might focus on a very specific question. They can be in person, or can be contacts over the phone, or by email. They can be planned in advance, or can happen spontaneously as you meet by chance in the Campus Center or on a walk around the Lake. Be open to the many ways that members of the Wellesley community, even if they are not “formal” advisors, can help you find a way to make the most of the College.

How should you prepare for a meeting with an advisor?
The key to a successful advising session is recognizing that both the student and the advisor have active roles to play. Both should prepare for a meeting that is arranged ahead of time. A student should have a sense of her initial questions or concerns, so that the conversation has a starting point grounded in her experience and goals. She should also use the resources at hand (the course catalog, information available online and so on) to try to frame her questions in a way that educates her advisor about her goals and interests. The advisor should be prepared with basic information about requirements and opportunities and with knowledge of the resources available for more specialized help. Finally, both a student and her advisor should have realistic expectations about what each is bringing to the relationship. Advisors understand that first-year students come to this relationship with less experience and self-knowledge than students have later in their careers. Students should understand that different advisors will have different sets of knowledge and areas of expertise; your Faculty Advisor, your Class Dean, and your First Year mentor can all provide great advice, but of different kinds.

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