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What to Ask Your Academic Advisor

What to Ask and Expect Meeting Your Academic Advisor

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Starting college is an exciting journey, and one of the first steps in this adventure is attending orientation and meeting an academic advisor. Your advisor will help you make the best decisions when register for classes and help guide you toward your degree.

To make the most out of your academic advising appointment, it's important to know what questions to ask. Here are some key topics to bring up with your advisor when you meet them.

Understand Your Major Requirements

Your major will shape your academic journey, so it's crucial to know the requirements early on. Ask your academic advisor about the specific prerequisites, core courses, and electives needed for your major.


These are classes you need to take before you can register for a course. For example, if you want to take a Zoology class you may need to take General Biology first. That means General Biology is a prerequisite for Zoology.

Core Courses

Core courses are typically the courses that are very specific to your major. For example, if you are an Automotive student, your Core courses will focus on cars and related topics. 


Electives are your opportunity to explore topics outside of your major's core. Maybe you're a Criminal Justice major, but you have always wanted to learn about sociology or maybe you think an understanding of Spanish would be helpful in your career. Electives are courses you choose from across the university.

Many new students start college without a major. Most of them end up changing their major later on. One survey found that 28% of students who changed their major delayed their expected graduation rate by two or more semesters.

Understanding these requirements will help you plan your course schedule effectively and ensure you stay on track. Your advisor can help you with that, so make sure to ask about all of your major's requirements.

General Education Requirements

Most colleges have general education requirements that cover a range of subjects outside your major. Inquire about the general education courses you need to complete and how they fit into your academic plan. Knowing these requirements will help you balance your workload and explore new fields of study.

"Students can struggle with the importance of general education," said Michael Zaborowski, Director of Academic Advising at Ferris State University. " We can show you what that means and how it helps you grow, not just in your field, but also in core areas that will help you adjust to change in your work environment and to address things at a much larger scale." 

Pick the Best Classes for You

Ask your advisor which classes you should take during your first semester. Your advisor can recommend introductory courses tailored to you and your major or those with engaging professors. Ask about any restrictions or prerequisites for specific courses to ensure you pick the best options.

"A lot of the programs are secondary admit,"said Angela Ryan, an Academic Advisor to the College of Health Professions at Ferris. This means that there are courses you need to complete before you are admitted to the program. "If you want stay on track and get into your program, I need you to come and see me at least once each semester. This is so we can check your plan for the future."

Exploring different class formats and sections can also help you find the best fit for your learning style.

Plan Your Course Load

Understanding how many credits to take each semester is crucial for staying on track for graduation. Ask your advisor about the recommended course load for freshmen in your major. They can provide guidance based on the intensity of coursework and other factors. Balancing your workload will contribute to a successful academic experience.

Utilize Academic Support Services

Colleges offer a wide range of academic support services to help students thrive. Inquire about tutoring programs, study groups, or writing centers available on campus. "I'm just the navigator. You make all the decisions. You're in the driver's seat," said Ryan. "But when you hit a roadblock, I'm here to guide you in the right direction and get you to the resources you need." 

Ask for information about study skills workshops or time management resources that can help you develop effective strategies for success. Familiarize yourself with the available resources to make the most of your college education.

Your advisor can even help you find other campus resources, like financial aid and scholarships.

Explore Future Opportunities

College is not just about coursework. It's an opportunity to explore various experiences that enhance your personal and professional growth.

"I think you know having those conversations with your advisors is important," adds David McCall, Associate Professor and Director of First-Generation Initiatives at Ferris. "What are some skills I should be trying to obtain that will help me in my career? What are some opportunities within campus or within this specific college or department? Are there student organizations or other opportunities for community involvement or campus involvement that pertain to my future job?"

Ask your academic advisor about internships, co-op programs, or undergraduate research opportunities related to your major. Inquire about study abroad or exchange programs to broaden your horizons. Additionally, discuss potential career paths and seek advice on how to begin your career exploration journey.

Explore Your Options at Ferris

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Meeting with your academic advisor during your college orientation is an essential step in setting yourself up for college success. By asking the right questions and seeking guidance, you can make informed decisions about your class schedule and maximize your college experience. 

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