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Stomping the Yard

How Your Academic Advisor Can Help You Succeed

Calling all college students! Our weekly column, Stomping the Yard, aims to help undergrads excel in their studies and social lives. JETmag.com’s team of experts will show you how to get it done, from the day you move into the dorms to the minute you step off campus for that first job. Submit questions and feedback for Stomping the Yard via digitalpitches@ebony.com.

So, you just woke up from the worst nightmare…

You’ve completed four years of college and you’re  ready to receive your bachelor’s degree. In this final week prior to graduation, you’re making your rounds to pick up your cap and gown, pay off any graduation fees, and get your final grades. Your family just flew into town and is ready to begin celebrating your upcoming graduation ceremony.

Then you get the worst news ever! You are actually NOT going to graduate!

While you have the 126 credits necessary for graduation, it turns out three of those credits should have been in a basic public speaking course that you somehow neglected to take!!

Yes, it was just a dream, but this could definitely happen if you underestimate the importance of building a relationship with your academic advisor.

According to Lincoln Brown, Jr., an old classmate of mine and current academic counselor at Howard University School of Communications, this nightmare has unfortunately become a reality for students who don’t get to really know and appreciate their academic advisor.

Below, Lincoln provides tips on optimizing the bond with your academic advisor to ensure you avoid any last-minute surprises:

Why your advisor is such a BOSS: Brown says academic advisors/counselors will help you navigate through college matriculation, and help you hone the necessary skills you’ll need to be successful in your college career. They ensure that you’ll be taking enough credits each semester to graduate on time, and also make sure you’re taking the proper courses required for graduation.

Start off on the right foot: It’s important to form a relationship with your academic advisor early in your freshman year. It’s good for you to know him, and to make sure he knows distinctly who you are as well. Brown recommends this so that if opportunities such as job announcements, internships, or scholarships come across your advisor’s desk, he can call you and encourage you to apply before other students get the news. Brown also cautions that it’s really important to read ALL the emails that your advisors send you, because it’s the primary way they give out information to students.

Advisors can help lay the path to early graduation: Brown says that some students opt for early graduation in an effort to save money. Advisors can help you map out your classes and get you closer to achieving this goal. But beware, summer school in college is different than high school.  In high school, many students look to summer school as an opportunity to make up missed credits from failed classes, but in college, summer school is a tool to help you get ahead of the game.  By doing this, he says you can gain enough credits to be almost a semester ahead.

Risks of not bonding with your advisor: Advisors not only offer guidance to help you graduate on time, but their advice may also help ensure you keep your financial aid. Brown says that students can be suspended from receiving federal financial aid if they are not completing the necessary credit requirements in a timely manner.

Advisors can write recommendations and make referrals: An academic advisor can make you aware of various opportunities like scholarships and fellowships, but they can also be a great recommender for these prospects as well. So, a good relationship with an advisor can lead to strong recommendation letters for you, and they have personal relationships with people in the workforce to help with internships, and jobs after graduation. They also can give you advice on which professors are great to take for different courses as well.

Kelly Fair

Kelly Fair is the founder of the highly successful Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program that  has served more than 700 girls, aged seven to 17 years old, to be effective communicators, and career and community conscious leaders! This work has been supported by a network of 300+ volunteers from the Chicagoland community and area businesses such as Bloomingdale’s, Microsoft, ThoughtWorks and many more. You can follow Kelly on her blog and on Twitter at @KFairtheMentor.