Dean of the Faculty

First-Year Academic Advising

More information regarding first-year advising, particularly Orientation Advising can be found at

Misconceptions about Advising

Students’ misconceptions

  • My advisor is going to set goals.
  • My advisor is going to decide what courses I should take.
  • My advisor is going to meet all my advising needs.
  • My advisor will always be available (e.g., 2:00 am by email, 4:30 pm on Friday, the last day of add/drop).

Advisors’ misconceptions

  • I need to know everything about the curriculum.
  • I will need to be a personal counselor.
  • I will be responsible for enforcing College rules and regulations.

Goals of New Student Academic Advising

  • To provide a structured first contact for each incoming student (first-year and transfer) that will help define the student’s intellectual and academic goals and to discuss the goals of a liberal arts education
  • To discuss the opportunities and challenges of the open curriculum
  • To ensure that a student’s course selections are balanced, consistent with the student’s expressed intentions, and realistic in terms of the student’s goals and abilities.
  • To challenge students to try new areas of study, to strive to improve academic skills, and to take intellectual risks
  • To provide a contact person who can over the first (and hopefully the second) year answer questions or direct the student to where an answer can be found
  • To maximize the student's chances of being fully enrolled by approving a list of preferred courses which is greater than the number that he or she needs and to encourage the student to attend and complete the work in at least some of these alternate choices. This way, if a student gets dropped from a class, another pre-approved class can be substituted.  Preparing for this possibility also lessens the disappointment in the likely case a student doesn't get all the classes he/she wants

First Meeting Discussion Topics

  • Advisor-advisee expectations (review the misconceptions and goals listed above)
  • Help advisees to define goals, urge them to work on skills and branch out
    • Review the Academic Portfolio and other documents on AC Data
    • Encourage the following:
      • Build upon your strengths, while also trying something new
      • Work on writing
      • Study a foreign language
      • Try a laboratory science
  • Help the student evaluate his or her course load balance
    • Range of academic disciplines & divisions
    • Diversity of courses in terms of type of assignments
      • What are the instructor’s expectations for the course?
      • Does the course have finals, papers, heavy readings, labs, or additional meeting times?
    • What are the student’s extracurricular commitments, e.g., sports, jobs?
    • Consider a range of class sizes
    • Is the schedule balanced across the days of the week?
    • Look for classes outside of the most crowded time slots
  • The Curriculum: There are thirty-four majors and more than eight hundred courses. Academic areas include courses in the following divisions: the arts, humanities, language arts, natural sciences, performance arts, and the social sciences. Encourage the student to inquire into as many of theses as possible as they consider course options.
  • Longer range planning:
    • a. Study abroad
    • b. Declaring a major
    • c. Development of skills in writing, quantitative analysis, foreign languge, critical  analysis, and research.
    • d. Other issues: premed, double major, concentration

Choosing Courses: Some Considerations

  • Build diversity into your curriculum
  • Consider possible majors (list of majors)
  • Broaden curricular horizons -- experiment with new fields
  • Select courses that will help with particular skills (reading, writing, quantitative skills)
  • Foreign language study
  • Science for non-science majors
  • Arts for non-arts majors
  • Foreign literature & culture courses taught in English
  • Difficult combinations of courses -- pay attention to test scores, especially for math and science courses (Math placement, recommendation for intensive Economics and Chemistry sections)
    • Chemistry151, Math 111, Economics 111, Computer Science 111
    • Math 111 vs. Math 105 & 106
    • Other courses that tend to land students before the Committee on Academic Standing: Philosophy 213, Black Studies 111, Psychology 212
  • Courses with prerequisites
  • Continue to build upon strengths, strengthen weakness, and explore interests

Academic Support Services

Encourage students to explore these resources if selecting quantitative or writing intensive courses, even if they don’t anticipate making use of them.

Other Discussion Topics

  • Calendar
  • Committee on Academic Standing (CAS)
  • Mid-term warning grades
  • Caution about relying on academic advice from teammates & friends
  • Honor Code (Statement of student rights and responsibilities)
  • Take Your Professor Out (TYPO)
  • Advanced Placement
  • Placement exams (Math, Physics, languages – easier to move down than up)
  • Freshman drop (6-8 weeks into the semester)
  • Add/Drop period
  • Course load: 5 courses, half classes (Theater & Dance, Music)
  • Study skills (Learning Skills Inc., Lewis Fleischner, Director; 413-256-4111)
  • Five-College courses
  • The Pass/Fail option
  • “Go to class!” If you notice a student not making it to class or in some other form of distress contact the student and notify the Office of Student Affairs.
  • Class Deans (’18 Lopez, ’17 McGeoch, '16 Umphrey, '15 Boykin-East)
  • Career Center
  • Religious Life Staff