Making the Most of Your Academic Advisor


Making the Most of Your Academic Advisor

If you’re not making good use of your academic advisor, you may be missing out.

When Jennifer Porter began the OU Extended Campus College of Professional and Continuing Studies Bachelor of Arts in Administrative Leadership program in spring 2017, her husband was recovering from a liver transplant. She wasn’t sure if her special circumstances qualified her for additional financial aid. A visit with her advisor gave her the answer she needed, and she received more assistance than she expected.

OU Extended Campus academic advisors aren’t just there to help you transfer credits and navigate your degree plan. They’re there to help you make the most of your college experience.

“Our job first and foremost is to give our students the best foundation for completing their program,” said OU Extended Campus military advisor LaDawn Jones. “We are their liaison to all other departments within the college and the university.”

If you’re not sure when to contact your advisor, start with these tips to help you make the most of your student-advisor relationship.

Understand the role of your advisor

Advisors not only help you decide what courses to take, they are an ongoing resource to help you succeed as you move through your degree plan.

“I firmly believe advising is first and foremost a teaching endeavor, whether it be teaching about policy, degree requirements, planning or resources,” said Michelle Shults, OU Extended Campus academic advising coordinator. “The advising relationship is a partnership where we don’t make decisions for you, but we can help you gather the information you need to make an informed decision and suggest things to consider.”

Stay in touch

Your advisor is your advocate. The better they know you, the better they’ll be able to help you make the most of your opportunities.

It’s a good idea to meet with your advisor at least once each semester. Reach out to your advisor right away if you’re struggling with a course or an instructor, or if you have questions about financial aid or tuition.

“Students should never hesitate to contact their advisor,” Shults said. “Too often students fall behind and don’t say anything because they intend to get caught up. Then, before you know it, the semester is over and professors are assigning grades. We would much rather help you make a plan to get caught up and talk about your options before class is over.”

Be prepared

When you visit your advisor, prepare a list of your questions. Know what classes you’d like to take and what information you need from your advisor during the visit. If you have an issue, be detailed about the problem when you talk to your advisor. Getting right to the point will help you work out a resolution more quickly.

“We don’t have all the answers, but we are really good at navigating the university system and identifying the proper contact,” Shults said. “If you don’t know who to contact, start with your advisor.”

Create a plan of study with your advisor

Sometimes courses are offered at different times or have specific application deadlines. Others may require careful planning. Working with your advisor will help you avoid problems and help you identify the number of elective credits for your program.

“Always, always, always read your OU email,” said Shults. “We send out lots of reminders about critical next steps in your degree. Sometimes deadlines have serious consequences, and we don’t want any unpleasant surprises for our students.”

 Build a good relationship

Your advisor is your advocate. The better they know you, the better they’ll be able to help you make the most of your opportunities. They can connect you to resources you may not know exist and give you extra support when you need it.

“Like I said, we are the liaison between the student and every other department. It’s important to have a good relationship with your advisor so that they can help you with any issue you have along the way,” Jones said. “Every advisor at OU Extended Campus takes ownership of their advisees. With this ownership comes a sense of responsibility for them. Students that have a good line of communication with their advisors are more successful in their programs.”

Porter said she’s reached out to her advisors on numerous occasions since she sought financial aid advice, receiving everything from help with class selection to moral support.

“My advisors and instructors have been patient and encouraging when I’ve doubted myself and wasn’t sure I could even do this,” Porter said. “I’m making good grades, and I’m enjoying my classes. All of my advisors have been very helpful.”

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Tami Althoff

Tami Althoff holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is a reporter with more than 20 years’ experience working for newspapers, including The Oklahoman. She has covered everything from breaking news to local music and art. She loves sports, especially OU football and basketball games, where she often embarrasses her children by yelling too loudly.