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How to Use Your Advising Appointment for Success

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It is advising time at universities all across the country. While many students and even university advisors can get caught up in focusing only on the creation of next semester’s schedule, a quality advising session can help you succeed in college and in your transition to a job or graduate program.

Start with your end goals

The first thing you need to discuss with your advisor is your career goals. If your advisor knows your long-term goals, then your advisor is better able to help you pick activities, courses or minors that will help you stand out. Whether you are looking for a job or future education after graduating, one of the best ways to stand out is by going beyond the minimums. For example, if you are a STEM major, consider taking technical writing to demonstrate that you have strong communication skills. If you want to work in an international company, consider taking 2-4 years of a foreign language. If you are interested in art, consider taking business classes. By coupling non-traditional skills together, you can make yourself stand out to a future employer or graduate program.

Discuss your resume

From your first day on campus, you need to think about how you can use your experiences to build your resume. For example, if you plan to join a sorority or fraternity, be sure to get involved in community outreach and leadership positions. You’ll want to use your experience within the sorority or fraternity to demonstrate that you have important “soft” skills such as the ability to work as part of a team, to communicate to others, to organize events or to manage chapter finances. You should use every club, volunteer position and even some courses to demonstrate the ability to meet the demands of your future employer. By bringing your resume regularly to your advisor, you’ll start to see the skills that you have and skills that you want to develop. By noticing skills that you want to develop, you and your advisor can come up with a plan to help you gain those skills. In addition to your academic advisor, reach out to Career Services for advice on your resume. The World's Best Automated Proofreader is a great way to proofread your resume and cover letter.

Develop a personal relationship

Depending on your university’s set-up, this may be challenging. At the end of your degree, you will need reference letters. Your advisor can make a great reference if you develop a mentor/mentee relationship. Your advisor will be able to discuss your ability to overcome challenges or to work as a part of a team. Don’t wait until you're about to graduate to start developing these relationships. Start developing them from your first semester. If your university uses a centralized advising model, you may need to find a mentor within your field that is separate from your advisor. Talk to your department chair or older students to get help creating these relationships.

Map out classes for your major over the next several semesters

Work with your advisor to create a plan to ensure that you are making progress towards your major graduation requirements. Be sure to create a plan that includes classes for your major and minor that is at least 3 semesters long. Not all classes are taught every semester or even every year. By having at least a 3 semester plan, you will hopefully avoid a delay because you have to wait an extra semester or year to take a required course.

Develop your class schedule

Once you know what classes you need to take for your major and minors, it's typically up to you to turn that information into a class schedule. While many universities have software that can auto-generate a schedule for you, be careful as a “bad” schedule can cause you semester long stress. See our article here to learn more about creating a schedule for success.

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