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What is academic advising? 

February 26, 2018 — 

The following article is published as part of a series of articles on academic advising featuring the writing of University of Manitoba advisors.

Since starting classes at the University of Manitoba, you have likely heard someone say, “You should go talk to an academic advisor.” As the University 1 First Year Centre Coordinator, that sounds like great advice to me. But what does it mean to speak with an academic advisor? How can it help you?

There is so much more to advising than just talking about what classes you should take. In fact, we rarely tell you what you should do. Instead, we help you figure out what is right for you. It’s like the old “give a person a fish” versus “teach a person to fish” scenario. Advisors want to help you get to a place where you are able to determine the best course of action on your own. 

Advisors often take what is called the “developmental approach” to academic advising which uses a growth model to help you figure out what you want, why you want it and how you’re going to get there. This model focuses on exploring options, clarifying and communicating goals, and implementing realistic choices all based on your interests, values, abilities and motivation.

At the heart of good academic advising is the idea that you’re not just what you’re born with. Some things may not come naturally to you, but there are factors that will increase the likelihood that you will do well in courses – this is what advisors can help with.

During an appointment, your advisor will work through an issue with you to highlight your options and focus on how they will look in the real world.

Here are just three examples of issues advisors can help you work through in order to be successful:

  • Identifying your goals: without knowing where you want to end up, developing a path to get there is impossible. Communicating your goals out loud to another person helps to solidify them in your mind and is integral to achieving what you set out to accomplish. 
  • Figuring out your strengths (and weaknesses): knowing what you are good at – and not so good at – are equally important. An advisor can help to identify strategies that will enhance your strengths and minimize the impact of weaknesses. 
  • Keeping yourself motivated: achieving your goals requires more than just desire. Motivation can be determining factor in academic success and keeping in mind why you want to achieve your goals is critical. Every student has a moment where they feel like they just can’t read one more chapter, or write one more paper. Talking to someone about why you started this journey in the first place is often exactly what you need to keep yourself going. 

Academic advisors will challenge your thinking and encourage you to consider many factors while sorting through the numerous possible paths that will help you achieve your goals.  We’re not here to tell you what to do. We’re here to get to know you so that we can help guide you to wherever you are headed – and celebrate with you once you arrive! 

For more information on academic advising, or to make an appointment with an advisor, visit the academic advising web page. 

Ali Wood-Warren is Coordinator at the University1 First Year Centre, the only office on campus dedicated to supporting first year students. 

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