Image from StockSnap

Image from StockSnap

Maybe you have decided that you want to go and declare a major or minor, and then after picking up the declaration form you realize that you need to pick an adviser. Picking an adviser can be an intimidating process but it doesn’t have to be (honestly picking an adviser can be completely (or mostly) stress free). Here are five tips for trying to ask/pick an adviser.

1. Think about who you know

It is fairly likely that if you are about to declare this major/minor you have no only taken classes in the department but also know others who have also done so. Consider asking friends in the same department about their advising experience with their adviser and/or their experiences taking classes with various faculty members. Also think about what professors you have taken classes with. Do you find yourself frequently going to particular professor for advice? Maybe your personality just seemed to really click with a professor when you would talk to them during office hours.

2. Remember that advising and teaching are not the same things

Don’t immediately rule out a faculty member because you didn’t love their class. Advising and teaching are two completely different things. While many faculty members are great that doesn’t mean you need to immediately role out professors who taught a class you weren’t a fan of. Think about them as somebody you would be going to for guidance. Can you see yourself feeling comfortable going to them with questions and/or seeking advice? If you just said yes consider thinking about them in a more general sense and ask yourself if you could see them being a helpful adviser.

3. Talk to the department head

If you are struggling to come up with who you should ask consider reaching out to the department head. Often they can help you by suggesting faculty who have advising openings and are knowledgeable on things relevant to your academic interests. Talking to the department head is actually how I found one of my advisers (said department head is now actually one of my awesome advisers).

4. Think about what you need

Something that will help you to narrow down your focus when trying to pick an adviser is identifying what you need besides basic academic advising. Do you want to study abroad? Do research? Find a unique internship for the summer? These are all things that you can do without an adviser helping you, but the right advisor can make the process substantially easier. If you have identified some things you may want extra help with, asking around can be extremely helpful (see #1).

5. Relax

As scary as it may seem, finding an adviser isn’t nearly as scary as it seems. The worst that can happen is that the person says they won’t/can’t be your adviser (though I have only heard of this happening if they are already advising too many students). Also if for some reason you and your adviser don’t work out you can change advisers. But also remember that typically you will only see your adviser a handful of times a semester. Having the perfect adviser is without a doubt great but it is not necessary to excelling in college.

Once you have somebody in mind you will want to either email them or simply show up to their office hours (it depends on the norms of the school). If there are physical forms associated with selecting an adviser/declaring you should also try and bring them if you are going to be meeting with them. Good luck in finding an adviser!

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the author

Samantha Linder is a sophomore at Smith College where she is double majoring in neuroscience and art history. Samantha's favorite words include hippocampus, logorrhea, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

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