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Other Regarding academic advisors

StatGuy2000

Education Advisor
1,628
709
A common response from PF members with respect to questions posted here on Academic Guidance is to speak with an academic advisor.

I find this response to be interesting, because during the entire time I was in university back in the '90s (I'm an alma mater at the University of Toronto), I have never once spoke to any academic advisor regarding course selections or anything else -- in fact, when I was a student I wasn't even aware that there were academic advisors at all that I could speak to.

I'm curious as to whether many current students in STEM fields such as math, physics, or various engineering disciplines in the US and Canada are aware that there are people they could speak to with respect to course selections.
 

analogdesign

Science Advisor
1,127
343
My experience with academic advisors was poor at my alma mater. I went to talk with them once to see about doing an independent design seminar (and get program credit for it). It became clear pretty quick that I was much more familiar with the graduation requirements in my department than the department advisors. Perhaps they could be useful to people who are completely clueless about their goals but most Electrical Engineering students are intense type-A people who pour over the course catalog and do all kinds of "what if" scenarios regarding their classes. (I guess they don't print course catalogs anymore?),
 
2,053
509
When I was in school (back during the last Ice Age), a visit to your academic advisor was required in order to register every semester. He/she had to sign your course selection card that enabled you to enroll in the chosen courses. Some advisors took this very seriously and really counseled students, others like mine would sign the card immediately and then say, "now, what are you going to take?" The same system was in effect at all the various schools where I taught. It is a way to keep students on track, moving toward a degree and not just taking "fun" courses.
 

berkeman

Mentor
55,564
5,667
My undergraduate advisor helped me several times (but this was back in the late 1970s; I don't know if it is still the same). He helped me when I decided to change from an ME/EE double major to straight EE, and he helped me near the end of my undergrad to be sure that the electives I was taking qualified to earn my degree. I also enjoyed the classes that I took from him.
most Electrical Engineering students are intense type-A people who pour over the course catalog and do all kinds of "what if" scenarios regarding their classes.
Maybe, but I was seriously buried in my studies most of the time, so having to try to triple-check that my course selections didn't contain any errors was a bit beyond me at the time.
 

analogdesign

Science Advisor
1,127
343
My undergraduate advisor helped me several times (but this was back in the late 1970s; I don't know if it is still the same). He helped me when I decided to change from an ME/EE double major to straight EE, and he helped me near the end of my undergrad to be sure that the electives I was taking qualified to earn my degree. I also enjoyed the classes that I took from him.

Maybe, but I was seriously buried in my studies most of the time, so having to try to triple-check that my course selections didn't contain any errors was a bit beyond me at the time.
At the time I was an undergrad (mid 90s) the advisor wasn't a professor but rather a professional advisor. I imagine I would have gotten better advice from a professor, potentially. Also, at the time there were "tracks" that spelled out pretty much what you had to take (e.g. analog electronics, digital electronics, EM, software, etc).
 

jasonRF

Science Advisor
Gold Member
1,223
269
I was an undergrad electrical enginering major in the early 90s. My advisor (an EE professor) was considerable help throughout my four years - especially in course selection but also for helping understand what grad schools wanted and helping with the grad school application process.

We were required to meet at least once per semester - his signature was required on almost every form, including course selection forms. I probably met with him a dozen or so times.

Here is an example exchange: I recall wanting to take more math so asking him about it. His response was to start asking me questions: what do I plan on doing when I graduate? What branches of EE am I interested in? Do I want to take on a graduate level course or stick to undergrad? Etc. He then went through the catalog with me and pointed out a couple of options, highlighting the math departments applied complex analysis course that he knew would be useful for someone interested in electromagnetics and plasmas (it was perfect). But he made it clear that he was equally prepared to suggest an upper-division algebra class had I been interested in some of the other branches of ee. It was perhaps a 5-10 minute exchange, but he ended up giving me terrific advice. There were other instances that were similar.

I guess I always assumed this was typical of college advisors, so I often advise people on the forums to consult their advisors. Perhaps my assumption isn't valid ...

Jason
 

berkeman

Mentor
55,564
5,667
especially in course selection but also for helping understand what grad schools wanted and helping with the grad school application process
Nice. That does remind me of one of the best pieces of advice that my academic advisor gave me (I wish I could remember his name). I was a couple semesters away from taking the GREs, and I asked if I should do anything special to prepare. He said that math skills were especially perishable, and he recommended that I be sure to take elective advanced math courses right up to and through the GREs (I had already completed the required math courses). That turned out to be great advice -- if you aren't using math every day you get a bit lazy and less intuitive, in my experience. So being immersed in advanced math classes up to the time that I took the GREs was a huge help. :smile:
 

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