Student Guide to Advising

Advisee Responsibilities

It is ultimately the student advisee’s responsibility for meeting all graduation requirements of the College. A student should:

  • Be prompt and prepared when meeting with advisors. Preparation for an advising appointment means having reviewed the current course schedule and course catalog, and having thought about options ahead of time and bringing any relevant paperwork to the meeting
  • Share with advisor information about interests, activities, and ambitions
  • Seek advisement in a timely manner and try to schedule appointments in advance with advisor
  • Be proactive with regard to the advising process; ask questions about curriculum, courses, college programs, and career advice
  • Become familiar with general education requirements, graduation requirements, and program requirements
  • Consult advisor when making schedule changes such as adding/withdrawing/dropping classes

Tips By and For Union Students

We asked Union Juniors and Seniors to talk about their experiences with advising at Union: what they did right, what mistakes they made, and what advice they would offer incoming Union students. Here’s what they had to say:

Working with Your Advisor

“Try to build a relationship with your advisor.  I meet with my advisor at least once a term, and sometimes I’ll pop in to say hello throughout the term. When your advisor is more familiar with your interests, he or she can better assist you.  Respect the advice of your advisor but always remember when choosing classes, the final decision is your own.  And know that early on, you can always change who your advisor is to someone who suits your academic needs best.

“I would suggest that students show initiative: do research on their own and arrive at meetings prepared to discuss what classes or action they would like to take.  Students should not expect their advisors to tell them what to do.

“Be completely honest, because they are there to help you. For example, I needed to take a math course for my Gen Ed but I hate math, so by telling my advisor this, she was able to help me find a Gen Ed course that was offered that wasn’t too intense.

“Be on time.  And be prepared when you go talk to your advisor. It is alright if you need help, but they are busy people too. Have a list of courses that you might like and talk them through with your advisor.

“Take your advisor’s advice, but also be independent and keep track of the requirements you’ve fulfilled and have to fulfill yourself. That way, ultimately you are responsible.

“I wish I had consulted my advisor when choosing courses as opposed to simply having them sign my sheet- I feel like I could have received some valuable input at times.

“Ask your advisor to help you plan a year in advance; then you know you have everything you need for your major/ minor/ and or Gen Eds.

“Stay in contact as much as possible and create a respectable relationship with your advisor, so you are comfortable asking for help if need be. Tell your advisor if you are having troubles.

“If you don’t like your advisor, switch. You may worry about not wanting to offend that professor if you switch to another…but in the long run it is better for you, and the professors understand that different students form bonds with different professors.

“Advisors have excellent insight on course choices but it isn’t their job to walk you through college. Your advisor is not your only source of advice. Sit down with any professor and they will offer a new opinion. Also, if you don’t get along with your advisor, or they aren’t a good fit for you, change your advisor. It’s important that you are happy and have a great advisor relationship rather than staying with the same advisor to avoid an awkward conversation.

“Advisors are here to help you, so pick their brain on anything they can tell you about courses, or maybe even their experience in college; you never know what will help.  Definitely meet with your advisor at least once a term, even if is not about signing up for classes.”

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Choosing Classes

“Take some classes you enjoy. You won’t really ever get another chance to learn about some of the things taught here, so try and take advantage of it if you can.
“My advice would be to take the classes that interest you and some others that are a little out of your comfort zone and you’ll stumble upon what you’re looking for eventually.
“Research the class prior to registration: email the professor, ask around, and look at all the classes being offered in FULL. The course catalog offers good descriptions. I also asked about the professor’s teaching style.
“Talk to the professors beforehand to get a good sense of what the class is like – they like telling you all about it. I always tried to take one class that would make me comfortable, one class that interested me that might also make me feel out of my element, all the while keeping an eye on Gen Eds.
“Don’t choose based on what your friends do, and choose times you know you’ll make it to class for. Take your time when picking classes! Also, look at whether a class is a WAC or not- don’t take three WAC classes at the same time, if you think your grades will suffer because of it.
“I like to pick class by timing. I like being done with class by 1 pm just because that is what works for me. I also like to take two classes that will really challenge me in my major and one class that is more laid back and or something that is outside of my major interest. For example I’m a History and Africana studies major, but I’ve found that I really enjoy acting classes. “Never  take 3 classes in the same department. I like to take classes that I have an idea what midterm and finals week will look like, so I can have my work more spread out over the term.
“Don’t be afraid to take harder classes. Don’t just take easy classes. Upper level classes are more interesting.  Don’t choose classes based on what your friends are taking.
“I would recommend taking as many intro classes as possible. I avoided some departments because I thought the major would be too difficult, or I would not be interested. However, as a senior I have taken more elective classes, and I found other areas that I am more interested in. I wish I had done this earlier.”

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Registration Issues

“The women at the Registrar are very helpful- they are a wealth of information. Always be aware of the dates; the point until which you can drop or add a course without having a “withdraw” on your transcript. Also, just stay informed and be pro-active.  Don’t do these things at the last minute; you might not get as much or as friendly advice/help when you are running up against a deadline.
“Make sure you are aware of the rules of the registrar so that you don’t end up hurting yourself in the long run by not following the rules.
“Once when I was very indecisive and decided to switch my classes during the second week, consulting professors and receiving signatures became a big hassle. Try deciding whether or not you want to switch a class within the first week- the longer you wait the more a hassle it is for everyone involved.
“If you try to add a course and the class is closed, e-mail and go talk to the professor and see if they will be willing to make room for you on their roster.  Just try to e-mail and talk to as many professors as you can; showing real interest really gets you places.
“Remember to do a couple of petition courses in case you don’t get in.
“Be nice to everyone at the registrar. It is very stressful getting all of our issues settled and they will help you, but be nice.
“Often, if you visit the registrar with problems they will be able to clear it up quite quickly. Make sure you deal with these types of issues in a prompt manner.”

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Deciding on a Major

“I came to Union thinking that I should know my major, feeling that everyone else but me knew, but I quickly found out that that wasn’t the case. I met many people who were undecided like me and others who came in intent on a major and quickly changed.

“Don’t freak out if you don’t know what your major is going to be your first year, but if you try a course and really like it, try taking another one. A lot of people stumble onto their majors that way.

“Choose something that you like! Take a bunch of courses in different areas to really find something that interests you. You’ll be surprised by what you find.

“If you’re not finding what you want to study, sample away! You might be really surprised by what subjects peak your interest.

“Choose something you’re passionate about.

“When I came to Union I assumed that I would become an English major because I loved to write and my father was an English major at his alma mater and that just seemed to be the logical choice. I quickly discovered that the English classes were not exactly what I was looking for. I then became an art history major, then a French major, and then found East Asian Studies which became my passion. I would urge students to not come into college with the assumption that they already know what they want to study. I highly suggest taking classes from a few different areas freshmen year to allow them to test the waters and interact with Professors from different departments. There’s no reason to rush this process…they have time and owe it to themselves to take a chance and explore.

“Choose a major that interests you; don’t worry about what your parents think you should major in. It’s your choice, and you are the one ultimately taking all the classes, so choose based upon your strongest interests and a desire to learn as much as you can about that material.

“Choose what interests you the most – not necessarily the easiest, or what you’re best at, but whatever subject you don’t mind reading 200 pages for or writing a 10-page paper for because you’re truly interested in the subject matter. And don’t let your parents influence your decision; they’re not the ones taking the classes.

“Always do what you WANT to do. So many people decide to be biology majors because they think they should, but they are really much better at sociology. You will always do better with something you enjoy learning.

“I took every class that interested me and after a few terms I realized that I had been choosing mostly courses that focused on global issues.  Also, notice which articles you always pick out of the newspaper or which TV news stories you find most interesting. If you pick mostly stories or courses that have to do with the environment, then chances are you’re naturally drawn to environmental students.

“I wish I had questioned more upperclassmen about their experiences with choosing a major. I also wish I had tried to reach out more to professors to seek advice from them. Go to see your professors during their office hours, ask them questions, take advantage of their willingness to teach you.

“Talk to professors in the departments that you’re interested in, as well as students if you get the opportunity. Another thing that was helpful was that I went to Steinmetz presentations to see what the senior projects were like. That really made me realize how broad a category electrical engineering is and what some of the things are that you can do with it.

“I would suggest discussing it with your advisors. If you have a variety of interests, take a variety of courses until you find the subject that works best for you. Remember that you have plenty of time to make a final decision, and at Union you can always create your own major.

“Getting to know some professors in a department can be a big help to making your decision on a major.

“Talk to people practicing in the field and see if it interests you. If two fields interest you, you might take a minor, ID major, or even double major to learn the second field.

“I came to Union a declared Math major but I added a second major in Economics during sophomore year. After two economics classes I was so interested in the topic, I felt like asking questions and answering them.  I knew I wouldn’t be bored by my major.”


“Don’t judge an intro class-they have a lot of information to cover. Taking a higher level course allows you more insight into a subject area.”


“I would be careful not to settle too quickly and really explore your options. Since Union has a general education requirement, you have the ability to take courses in a variety of subject areas. I originally came to Union thinking I wanted to pursue a career in dentistry; but then I began to explore political science.  After taking a few classes I decided I was interested in a career in government and settled on becoming a political science major. Before ultimately deciding, you should be sure to take a few introduction classes in order to get an idea about a specific major. I found this helpful as I was able to sort out what my strengths were and what major I believed I would excel in.”
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