By Mike, IvyWise College Admissions Counselor
“What do you want to do with your life?”
As a former academic advisor and faculty at a public college, I often found that this question struck fear in the hearts of first-year college students, turning a conversation about potential majors into an existential identity crisis.
In high school, the conversation around college majors and career paths is typically held within the lens of graduation or college admission requirements and fails to give the requisite time to answer such a big question in a thoughtful and informed manner. If students are lucky, their high school might have one or two courses related to career exploration. However, these courses tend to be electives that not all students take. Aside from this, students typically are not provided with any dedicated support from high school staff whose main responsibilities lie in the career development of students.
Unsurprisingly, when students arrive at college—a period marked by self-exploration—they might feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of deciding on their major, career, and future without a strong grasp of who they are or who they will become. Students must also contend with the sheer breadth of majors offered. For example, Boston University, University of Washington, and Ohio State University offer 100+, 180, and 200 majors, respectively.
This brings about what author Barry Schwartz, in his book Paradox of Choice, refers to as choice overload: the tendency for people to get overwhelmed when presented with many options. In what seems like a wave of infinite possibilities in college, how can students make informed decisions about their next four years of study, let alone their future after college?
[Academic Advising enters the chat]
What Is Academic Advising?
Academic advising provides college students with the support and guidance to make informed decisions about college majors and careers, which has a long-term impact even after students graduate with their bachelor’s degrees.
Academic advising is a service offered at colleges and universities where students meet regularly with academic advisors to discuss course selection, major choices, career planning, professional goals, and other issues related to college life. The advisor helps the student select courses that will lead to successful graduation from college and provides guidance regarding financial aid options.
Why Does Academic Advising Matter?
Academic advising helps you get into college or university, determine your educational plans, find a major, and choose a career path. It also helps you stay on track with your studies after you graduate.
Your academic advisor will help you plan your course load and set goals for each term. They may also suggest ways to improve your grades, such as taking extra classes or working part-time.
Academic advisors help students make decisions about where to go to school, what classes to take, and whether to pursue a degree or certificate program. They also help students with financial aid applications and provide guidance on how to prepare for standardized tests.
What Are the Benefits of Academic Advising?
Clear and Intentional College Planning
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 30% of college undergraduates in associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs changed their major at least once within three years of initial enrollment. Studies have shown that a lack of clarity around one’s academic interests and career goals can delay graduation, increase college costs, and weaken a student’s motivation to stay in college. An academic advisor can help students gain clarity on their path in college and beyond. In turn, this clarity allows students to make informed decisions on their intended major, begin to take courses within the major, and craft a college experience that aligns with their personal, intellectual, and career goals in college.
However, on-campus academic advising can be limited and impersonal, or, in some cases, non-existent. A recent survey showed that only 55% of participating students reported receiving advising on graduation requirements. Policies vary wildly by institution with some schools requiring that students meet with their advisor regularly and some where students must find and reach out to an academic advisor themselves. This type of support is extremely important to providing clarity on students’ goals and helping them plan for the next four years, but it is not always consistent across schools.
With the support of an academic advisor, students are provided with guidance and resources aimed at helping them wade through hundreds of majors and career paths to find the one that best suits their personality, interests, personal values, and talents. This can include tapping into campus resources that students often overlook, like career, counseling, academic support offices, and more. There are numerous on-campuses resources to help students have an intentional and fulfilling experience – they often just need help finding them.
Career Preparation and Opportunities
Academic advising and career advising go hand in hand, as students often decide which major to pursue based on their career goals. Thus, academic advisors are tasked with understanding major requirements and curriculum offerings, along with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the field.
Moreover, academic advisors may have connections to the industry that aligns with an intended major, which brings about informational interviews with professionals in the field, job shadowing, internships, and networking opportunities. In other words, academic advisors support students’ academic and professional growth in college.
A bachelor’s degree theoretically should take four years to complete. However, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, across the nation, only 45% of students seeking a bachelor’s degree graduate within four years.
In purely financial terms, the support a student receives from academic advising pays. U.S. News reports that the average annual tuition and fees at ranked private, out-of-state public, and in-state public colleges run at $38,185; $22,698; and $10,338, respectively. In other words, the support a student receives from an academic advisor to complete within four years could save the student tens of thousands of dollars in college tuition costs. The financial savings compound should a student pay for college through a student or parent loan, which according to a 2019 study from New York Life, takes an average borrower 18.5 years to pay off.
For many reasons, academic advising should be an integral part of any student’s college experience. At IvyWise, we recognize the need for personal and consistent guidance throughout all four years of college, so we have a dedicated team of academic advisors to help students develop the skills and habits needed to thrive during their college experience and plan ahead for graduate school or the workforce.
Our Academic Advisors have small caseloads, allowing for the type of one-on-one guidance that college students need for help identifying their goals and implementing a plan of action from day one on campus.
Find out more information on what our Academic Advising services include.