By: Kaitlin Thach, Intern, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Communications and Outreach
“The primary function of an academic advisor is to provide holistic support to students as they navigate their graduate school through post-graduation journey.”
Universities and higher education institutions across the country provide academic counseling for undergraduate and graduate students. This primary academic resource can be underutilized as students often see counseling as a resource only when they are frantic with worry when they realize they have little time to enroll in classes.
As an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, I realized that degree advisors exist at the institution solely for the purpose of helping students, although you would have to seek them out yourself. It is up to the student to seek out the appropriate resources and ask the questions they need answered. However, seeking an academic advisor at competitive institutions can seem like a sign of failure or a lack of independence for many students when this is not the case.
Throughout my college years, I walked into a pandemic, had to go through the pandemic, and transitioned from teaching online to in-person classes. The changes I had to overcome and adapt to were made easier with the help of my degree advisor.
Teresa Dinh, student experience specialist at UC Berkeley, works with incoming freshmen and sophomores with academic, admissions, and program interest counseling. She told me about her experience as a counselor and some of the reasons why she believes in the importance of counseling.
- Counselors help track academic progress. While advisors help students select, add, modify, or cancel courses in their schedule, this process also helps students understand how to better navigate university/major policies and procedures. If a course requires a prerequisite or must be taken in a specific semester, an advisor is knowledgeable enough to guide students through this decision-making process.
“An advisor should be up to date and knowledgeable about university/college policies such as general education requirements, graduation requirements, adding/removing courses, and if they are a major adviser, major specific policies.
- Advisors can help you find opportunities. Advisors are aware of current programs on campus and have the authority to recommend potential students to certain opportunities that will enhance their experience as a student in higher education.
“Students can book counseling appointments where we can cover studies, programsa m-interest, program admission or career counseling services. As a program we also send a bi-weekly newsletter which also provides updates, resources, opportunities and events. Basically, whenever I get the chance, I try to let it be known that students can contact me anytime with any questions they may have or can make an appointment with me if they need to. .
- Advisors want to see you succeed. Knowing about the resources available to you on campus can help you feel part of a community that wants you to thrive. Since students entering higher education generally have not planned their lives, counselors are trained to help students plan their careers and guide them through the process of achieving their goals/aspirations.
“I try to let students know that I am a resource they can turn to, and through this, students in our program have always mentioned that they feel constant support. staff throughout their career in higher education. »
Interview with Teresa Dinh:
- What is the main function of an educational advisor?
The primary function of an academic advisor is to provide holistic support to students as they navigate their graduate school through post-graduation journey. An advisor should be up to date and knowledgeable about university/college policies such as general education/scope requirements, graduation requirements, adding/removing courses and, if a major advisor, major specific policies. Academic advisors should also be aware of on-campus resources/departments they could refer students to in case they need additional help that I am not familiar with, such as counseling, financial aid, etc.
- How do you work to support your students? What benefits do you offer students?
From my very first communication with students, I do my best to let students know that they can contact me if they have any questions. As someone who identifies as a first generation student, I understand how overwhelming the transition to college can be and sometimes even if you have been given information you may not remember these information later due to all kinds of new information. you. As students move into the summer, our program sends communications to students that include an introduction to our program staff, how they can connect with us, and information about the webinars that our staff hosts. help prepare students to enroll in their fall classes. During their registration day, we also provide students with the opportunity to contact us in case they are unsure of which courses they should enroll in or if there are not as many course options. available. At the start of the academic year, we offer counseling hours typically from 9am to 4pm during the working week. Students can book counseling appointments where we can cover academic, program interest, program admission or career counseling services. As a program, we also send out a newsletter every two weeks which also provides updates, resources, opportunities and events. Basically, whenever I get the chance, I try to let it be known that students can contact me anytime with any questions they may have or can make an appointment with me if they need to. . Students have told me many times that they always feel like they can come to me and that I have helped them not get that “little fish in a big pond” feeling, and that’s something I am looking for a counselor on campus.
- What expectations do you have of students?
I expect students to do at least a little research and come to our counseling sessions with questions prepared. You don’t need to know our program in depth, but at least have some context that can help guide the conversation and for me to understand what you are asking. I also want students to practice a bit of professionalism with me too! This means coming to our counseling appointments on time, speaking with respect, and keeping our counseling appointments within the time you have booked (unless there is no appointment after you). , we could certainly continue the conversation beyond the time limit).
- What kind of resources do you share with your students?
Our website, professional/personal development workshops, all internship/research opportunities we come across, campus resources, program-specific curriculum, and opportunities to speak/network with industry professionals.
- What would you say to students who are not looking for academic advisors?
You might miss something! It doesn’t hurt to have an academic advisor check on your academic progress, just to make sure.
- What kind of relationships have you forged with your students? How would you describe these connections?
Similar to the relationships you form in your personal life, bonding is based on your input. For some students, they contact me to make sure they are on the right track and then go on with their day, which is perfectly fine! However, there are other students who end up meeting me regularly, asking me questions, updating me on their life/opportunities and also trying to have more informal conversations with me. This results in deeper connections. Having these deeper connections helps me understand the student, their goals, their passions, and makes it much easier for me to be a reference for students when applying for opportunities, or writing them a letter. recommendation more suited to them. . As I mentioned before, I try to let students know that I am a resource they can turn to, and through this, students in our program have always mentioned that they feel constant support from the share of staff as they navigate (d) their academic journey.