The Academic Advisor
The Academic Advisor

When you enter a university or college, you will usually be assigned an academic adviser who may be a member of the faculty or a member of the university staff. Your academic adviser will help you select your classes and plan your program, and he or she may also monitor your progress. You are free to seek advice from other faculty members as well. Your college or university will provide you with information about academic advising.

Before you meet with your academic adviser, however, it may be helpful to design a tentative program plan based on your own needs and desires. Know what the degree requirements are or, if you are not certain, prepare a list of questions. Study the university catalog, departmental course schedules, and the printed schedule, which lists all the courses being offered during the term and the days and times these courses will meet. Note that not all courses must be taken in a particular order; there is usually some flexibility in designing your program.

At the first meeting with your academic adviser, you may wish to discuss both your short-term and long-range professional plans — that is, what you hope to do during your program and after you finish your academic studies. You should discuss the tentative program plan that you have drawn up for the semester and possible adjustments to it. You may also wish to discuss opportunities for field experience and other activities that might enrich your educational experience. This information will be useful as your academic adviser helps you decide about various "elective" courses (courses you choose rather than those you are required to take). If you do not speak up, you will not benefit as much as you could from the knowledge and experience of your academic adviser.

Many international students think they should not express their opinion to their academic adviser, since this may be perceived as inappropriate behavior or a sign of disrespect in their own cultures. However, in American culture, it is considered appropriate behavior to speak up and voice your opinion freely. The role of the adviser is to help you make your own decisions, not to make decisions for you. On most campuses, your academic adviser is responsible for approving your plan of study and the number of courses you will take during each semester or quarter. Remember that taking a full course load (usually 12 to 15 credit hours for undergraduates and nine to 12 credit hours for graduates) is required in order for your nonimmigrant student visa to remain valid.

Using your personal plan and his or her knowledge of the school's requirements, your academic adviser will help you decide upon a study plan based upon your goals and the requirements for a degree. During the academic year, you should make appointments with your academic adviser at regular intervals (a good time is just prior to the next semester registration period) in order to review your progress.
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