Q&A: What Is an Academic Advisor?

Answer: An academic advisor is your point of contact with a university or college. The academic advisor in secondary education is similar to a guidance counselor in high school. An academic advisor helps students choose the correct program, classes, sessions/semesters to begin classes and work on a graduation plan. Let's address each of these areas and why your academic advisor is important.

Choosing a program of study can be difficult. While some people choose their professions as young adults, many people need time to decide. If you know you want to go to college, but are unsure on a future career, ask your academic advisor if any career interest testing or inventories are available. Some schools offer online or in-person testing to suggest possible careers that meet your interest/skills/personality.

Each program and/or major requires specific classes to graduate. Write down a list of programs/majors you are interested in and ask your academic advisor to go over the requirements. Some programs may have more or fewer courses than others, as well as labs or possibly internships. This is all information students should know so they can plan for graduation.

After choosing your program, you should sit down with your advisor to identify the specific classes you need. Some classes must be taken in a particular order. Others students may take classes at their discretion. Your academic advisor should be able to help with the order of classes. Once you know the classes and order, you can also decide how many classes to take each session or semester. Some students attend school part-time and others, full-time. This usually depends on how much time you have to devote to school and finances. These are also concerns you should be able to address with your academic advisor. Choosing a program/major, the order of your courses, part or full-time status and when to begin is part of your graduation plan.

All schools should have a staff person to help guide you in your education. Some may be called advisors, coaches, student services, etc. Don't be afraid to ask questions and share any concerns. Regardless of their title, the goal is to work together to get started and keep on the track toward graduation.

Dr. Beverley BrowningDr. Beverly A. Browning (Dr. Bev) has been a higher education adjunct faculty member for over 25 years. She has taught in the classroom and online for multiple colleges and universities including Spring Arbor College, Baker College of Flint, Mott Community College, and Rio Salado College. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Spring Arbor College and Mott Community College. She is currently an online instructor for ed2go.com (Cengage Learning). In addition to founding and directing the Grant Writing Training Foundation, Dr. Bev is also Vice President of Grants Professional Services for eCivis, Inc. She is the author over over 37 grant-related publications and a frequent keynote speaker and workshop presenter for national and regional conferences. Dr. Bev is a product of lifelong learning and an advocate for online teaching and learning!