Getting the Most Out of A Visit with your Advisor

This is dangerous territory for me.  My wife is an experienced advisor.  Like me, she is opinionated. If I get this wrong, Suzanne is likely to write a rebuttal and post it on this site.  I admit to more than a little fear but I have decided to cowboy-up and write on this subject because LBS is hiring a couple of new advisors. While interviewing the candidates I have been reflecting on the challenges and rewards of academic advising and what qualities I am looking for when hiring advisors.

Most students think of their advisor far too narrowly.  They see him or her as the person who is going to ensure that they fulfill all of their degree requirements in an efficient and timely manner so that they can graduate on time.   Those students who are a little more bold will also ask their advisor about the relative reputations of the different faculty who teach the same course they need in an effort to get the best one.

If you can’t figure out how to complete a plan of study, I question our decision to admit you into LBS.  If you do need help, there are computer programs that perform progress toward degree audits. And if aIl I needed advisors to do is perform this function, I would realize that I can pay a computer program a lot less than advisors to do it.  As for advice on which professor to take, if you need help with this sort of information, befriend some fellow LBS students.  They are much more likely to provide candid assessments of faculty teaching efficacy than advisors.  Advisors need to have good relationships with faculty to be effective.  Telling students that professor A is better than professor B is hazardous to their professional future.

Your advisor should be an expert on how you can best use the resources of the university to get the most out of your education and personal development.   This requires that an advisor know something about you: your aspirations, strengths, and weaknesses.  It also requires that the advisor be knowledgeable about the entire university and its many resources so that he or she can help you access them (e.g., tutoring, counseling, technology, libraries, career services, internships, study-abroad opportunities, community service experiences, leadership opportunities, student organizations etc. etc.).  If they know both of these things, they than can help you reach  your goals, providie you with an unbiased assessment of how well you are doing in executing your plan and provide options for mid-course corrections if necessary.

Understand that your advisor is responsible for about 600 students each at LBS and most students want to see them at exactly the same time: registration.  So if you plan on  meeting your advisor during registration, realize that this is when you are going to get the least amount of time with them.  Also recognize that it is hard to get to know anyone in 15 minutes.  If this is the only time you can meet your advisor, be very prepared and use that time as efficiently as possible.  The better strategy is to plan to meet with your advisor a couple of times each semester, at least once or twice at times other than registration.  Get to know them and help them to get to know you so that you can create your professional development plan together and meaningfully assess your progress.

If you do this, your advisor can turn out to be one of the most important people you meet while in school.  Suzanne has former students who write to her, follow her on Facebook, and invite her to lunch years after they graduate from school.  Developing those kinds of professional relationships with students is what I want from my advisors. Computer programs don’t do this.


6 thoughts on “Getting the Most Out of A Visit with your Advisor

  1. Dean Jarley: I appreciate your insights. This was very informative. Lucky for me, I agree with all you have to say. Of course, you’ve piqued my curiosity about Suzanne’s thoughts. Kidding – kind of…

  2. Dean Jarley: I have read you blog back to your original posts and find your insights refreshing and direct; thank you. I will receive my MPA next month. I and while I am a policy and program designer, implementer and evaluator whiz-bang, I am now looking into a Graduate Certificate in Finance to round out my skill set. Your advice, please, to a humble government worker who only wants to make Clark County a better place to live and work. [I will also entertain a guest blog from Mrs. Dean Jarley if she so chooses. 🙂 ]

    • Thanks Chandler: I have a public policy degree in my background and worked for the Wisconsin State Legislative Council for a while. To give you some guidance, I would have to know a little more about what your goals are in pursuing the certificate. If you think it would be helpful, we could set up a time to talk.

      • Thank you for your consideration, Dean Jarley. My goal is upper management local government. It appears to me that those who make it into the those top levels have finance and budgetary accumen. Many Management Analysts are financial and have a jump on promoting. In my case I would want to round out my abilities to open up my promotional possibilities. However, I see that the GC in Finance is on hold: I’m a people-person and the thought of going alone online is not attractive. I have a well developed sense of patience. That being said, I would appreciate any and all advice:)

  3. Dean Jarley,
    Welcome to UCF! As an advisor in the COBA for the past 11 years, I appreciate your view on the role of the “Advisor”. Looking forward to meeting and working with you and Suzanne.

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