Advising: The Basics

What is academic advising? 
Why should you see an academic adviser? 
Who is your academic adviser? 
Where is your academic adviser? 
When should you see your academic adviser? 
How can you make the most of your meetings with your academic adviser?

Contact College of Arts & Letters Lead Advisers

Academic Advising

Academic advising is an important form of teaching that takes place outside the classroom. Through a variety of contacts and consultations, academic advisers can help you take full advantage of the phenomenal opportunities that abound at MSU.

At its most basic form, academic advising focuses regular attention on your progress towards meeting graduation requirements. But academic advising can also open doors for both personal and professional development.

Advisers are familiar with the full range of University resources designed to provide support for students outside the classroom--such as the Counseling Center, Learning Resource Center, Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities, University Ombudsman's Office, Office of Financial Aids, and Career Services Network. Advisers are also knowledgeable about University policies and procedures, so they can assist students with a wide range of special problems, such as how to arrange participation in a Study Abroad program or how to withdraw from the University due to a personal emergency.

Why Should You See an Academic Adviser?

Two heads are better than one! Students in the College of Arts & Letters have an extraordinary amount of flexibility to shape their own programs of study, and academic advising provides "active learning" sessions with knowledgeable professionals who can help you design a course of study to fit your unique needs, interests, and goals. Each meeting with your academic adviser is an opportunity to brainstorm with an expert about ways to enhance your personal and professional development.

Academic advisers can also alert you to opportunities that you might not know exist--both inside and outside the classroom. Academic advisers can help you examine your academic goals and identify classes and opportunities to help you achieve them. Academic advisers can also serve as an "early warning system" to help you stay on track in meeting degree requirements. In fact, academic advisers thrive at problem solving and can help you tackle virtually any academic issue that may arise; even if they don't know the answer offhand, they can almost certainly provide a referral to someone who does!

Who is Your Academic Adviser?

All students in the College of Arts & Letters are assigned to academic advisers associated with their major programs of study. Students in some majors are assigned to professional advisers in their units. In other majors, students are assigned to a faculty adviser experienced in working with undergraduates.

Your adviser is not your parent or your pal, but is a friendly professional--knowledgeable about MSU courses and curricula, and eager to serve as a mentor to undergraduate students. Most advisers in the College of Arts & Letters have advanced degrees and interesting life experiences that contribute to their ability to guide you as you make academic choices.

Some students have more than one adviser, but the adviser associated with the major should be considered the "primary" adviser, since that's the one who will be responsible for verifying completion of degree requirements. Additional advisers may be assigned to students in special programs, such as the College Admissions Achievement Program (CAAP), Honors College, the Academic Scholars Program, or Spartan Athlete Support Services (SASS). Students enrolled for more than one major have advisers associated with each major.

Where is Your Academic Advisor? 

To identify and find your academic adviser, check the College of Arts & Letters web site or call the Department office that represents your major. The Department office can tell you how to reach the adviser by phone or e-mail and can explain how to schedule an appointment with the adviser. The College Student Affairs Office also maintains a list of advisers for all majors, so you can call 517-355-0366 for assistance in locating your adviser if you prefer. Advisers have offices within their academic units.

When Should you see your Academic Advisor?

Be sure to see your academic adviser at least once a year, several weeks before the annual enrollment period in April that allows you to sign up for classes for the coming year. Some students like to meet with their advisers more often--perhaps once a semester--to stay in touch and confirm plans for the subsequent semester.

Keep in mind that your adviser can be a key contact for discussions about any changes in your academic plans. If you decide to drop a class, add a class, or add a major or specialization, it's a good idea to discuss the matter with your adviser so you can prepare for any consequences such a decision might have. In addition, consider talking with your adviser about long-range planning as you contemplate Study Abroad opportunities, internships, or graduate school options?

How can you make the most of your meetings with your Acadmic Advisor?

Advising meetings are most productive when both the student and the adviser have an opportunity to prepare for the meeting in advance. Ideally, you should schedule an appointment when you need to speak with your adviser, and you should explain briefly in advance (by e-mail or phone message when you make the appointment) what your most pressing concerns are. That way, your adviser can pull your record and review your academic progress before you come for your appointment--leaving you both free to focus on the questions or concerns that prompted the appointment.

If you are unable to keep a scheduled appointment, be sure to call the office to cancel--so that the appointment can be offered to another student.

Students should acquaint themselves with the requirements associated with their major by checking Academic Programs, Degree Navigator, or major checklists. By doing your homework in advance, you can use your advising appointment to discuss the different options you have and work with your adviser to determine the best possible choices.

As you and your adviser wrap up your discussion, you may wish to summarize the key action points you've agreed on--such as selecting specific courses for a cognate, beginning foreign language study, visiting Career Services, or applying for the teacher certification option. Ask your adviser when you should plan to meet again--and don't hesitate to get back in touch sooner if the need arises.