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College Preparedness: Recovering from the PandemicSuzanne Shaffer
The student-professor relationship is one of the most important to cultivate. Academic advisors are also key players in a student’s successful adjustment to college and can guide them all the way through to an on-time graduation.
You can encourage your student to create open lines of communication with their professors and make the most of every advising appointment. Here are tips and talking points!
Professors will be happy to get to know your student before a problem arises. Any time during the semester (with the exception of the day before the final!) is a good time to reach out, but the sooner the better.
Your student should take cues from the syllabus about the best way to communicate. Is the professor available to meet in person or is email or an online meeting better? It should go without saying — if the professor prefers email, then use email and check it often.
When your student meets with the professor for the first time, they should have a list of questions ready. Here are a few that can help your student learn more about the professor’s expectations:
If your student gets a low grade, even if they think they know why, it’s good to check in with the professor as soon as possible. Here’s how to open a conversation:
Because students share this fear with me, it’s worth telling you: Yes, professors really want to talk with students who’ve failed an assignment. No, they don’t think their students aren’t smart enough to pass their class.
Professors want their students to learn and to earn good grades. Your student shouldn’t be ashamed to speak to a professor about a class they’re failing. Reaching out demonstrates a willingness to improve.
Academic advisors help students register for courses and keep track of credits and degree requirements. But that’s not all an advisor can do. Advisors can help your student connect with resources if they are having academic, personal, or financial challenges. Your student should view their advisor as a guide, coach, and support system.
Here are three steps to follow.
Students should prepare ahead of time for every appointment. The advisor needs to know what your student needs as soon as they get there.
I know from professional experience and also from my own son, who’s a college student, that many students don’t know what to say in the moment even with a list of questions in their hand. That’s why it’s important to practice the conversation ahead of time.
You don’t have to know the ins and outs of college advising — you just need to help your student learn how to ask questions and follow up with additional questions. Here’s a sample script:
Advisor Role: What can I do for you today?
Student: I need help registering for classes and I want to talk about changing my major.
Advisor Role: First, what classes are you thinking about taking? Then, tell me what’s motivating you to change your major.
Help your student identify what preparation they still need to do before their appointment and clarify what they want from the meeting.
A single advising appointment probably won’t answer all your student’s questions. A follow-up (even multiple ones) may be needed.
Encourage your student to check in regularly with their advisor even if there isn’t a pressing issue. Other reasons to meet with an advisor include:
Advisors can’t solve all of your student’s problems, but they can do a lot more than help with course registration. In fact, if your student cultivates a solid relationship with their advisor, they will have a coach, guide, and cheerleader all rolled into one.