Dean of the Faculty

First-Year Academic Advising

More information regarding first-year advising, particularly Orientation Advising can be found at https://www.amherst.edu/campuslife/deanstudents/new/orientation/advisors

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 goals and to discuss the goals of a liberal arts education.
  • 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.
  • Maximize the student's chances of being fully enrolled by approving a list of preferred courses which is greater than the number they need.  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 (perhaps review the misconceptions 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
      • Work on writing
      • Study a foreign language
      • Try a laboratory science
      • Try something new
  • 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?
    • Morning classes (is the student a “morning person”?)
  • The Curriculum: There are 34 majors and more than 800 courses. Academic areas include courses in the following divisions: the Arts, Humanities, Language Arts, Natural Sciences, Performance Arts, and the Social Sciences.
  • Longer range planning:
    • a. Study abroad
    • b. Declaring a major
    • c. 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 CAS: Philosophy 213, Black Studies 111, Psychology 212
  • Courses with prerequisites
  • Continue to build upon strengths & strengthen weakness

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