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Academic Advisors

What is an Academic Advisor?

Academic advisors (also spelled academic advisers) are higher education professionals who provide guidance to students on academic matters. When students are assigned to particular advisors, those students are referred to as the advisorsí advisees. While all academic advisors help their advisees understand degree requirements, many advisors also provide career guidance, assist with study skills and offer personal counseling. The specific responsibilities of an academic advisor depend on the educational background of the advisor and the particular needs of the school and its students.

Types of Academic advisors

There are two main types of academic advisors: faculty advisors and professional advisors. Some colleges use just one type of advisor; others use both.

Faculty Advisors
While the primary job of faculty advisorsí is to serve as a professor, they also provide academic guidance on to their advisees. Advisees of faculty advisors are usually students who major in the academic subject area that the faculty member teaches.

Professional Advisors
Professional advisorsí primary job is academic advising. However, they often have additional responsibilities such as teaching courses or managing a campus program. These advisors typically help students adjust to college, make life decisions and improve study skills. Professional advisors may also provide personal counseling at colleges that do not have a separate counseling center. Professional advisors often have a materís degree or a higher in a counseling, a higher education, or a social science field of study.

Matching advisors and advisees

Every college has its own method of matching advisors to their advisees. Some colleges assign advisees based the studentsí intended academic majors. For example, a student who intends to major in French would be assigned to a faculty or professional advisor who specializes in the French program. An advantage to this method is the advisorsí familiarity with the programsí requirements and related careers.

In some situations, studentsí group memberships determine who will be assigned as their advisor. For example, student athletes may be assigned to an academic advisor who specialized in working with athletes. The advantage of this method is that students with common concerns or requirements (such as meeting the requirements to continue participating in intercollegiate sports) are assigned to an advisor who has trained in that area.

In other cases, advisees are assigned to advisors without regard to the students intended major or other group. An advantage to this method is that advisors can each be assigned an equal number of advisees. This allows each advisor the ability to be able to devote approximately the same amount of time to their advisees. Another advantage to this method is that students who change their academic majors continue to work with the same academic advisor.

Some schools use a combination of these methods. When a combination approach is used, students might change advisors upon certain prescribed conditions, such as moving from a professional advisor to a faculty advisor upon declaration of a major. Other colleges using a combination approach may assign students to multiple advisors simultaneously. The advisors would each serve as resources for the student in their areas of expertise. For example, a student athlete who is majoring in English may have three advisors: (1) an athletic advisor for questions about athletic eligibility, (2) an English department for questions about English course requirements, and (3) a professional advisor for questions about general education course requirements.

Student Responsibilities

Academic advisors can be one of the best resources on campus for students. Advisors are often experts in university regulations and degree requirements. They also can help students as they adjust to college life and prepare for their futures. To take advantage of this resource, students need only to schedule and keep appointments with their advisors.

While academic advisors are often very helpful, students are still responsible for their own academic and career decisions. Advisors can provide assistance; however, for students to be successful, the students must keep track of deadlines, read their college catalog to understand requirements, maintain good records, and prepare for their futures.

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