Have you met with your college advisor lately?

Newswise — If you're a student at a California State University campus, it's recommended that you connect with your advisor(s) at least once per semester — but it's not just academics that she wants to talk to you about.

"If you have questions or are feeling uncertain about anything, we ask that you visit your advisor," says Shelly Thompson, director of undergraduate studies at California State University, Northridge. "As advisors, we talk students through the challenges and low points. We help you understand that it is OK to struggle."

By sharing your goals, difficulties you may be facing, and the roles you're juggling beyond being a student, your advisor is better able to develop a path that fits your specific journey to Graduation Day, Thompson adds.

"Advisors are in this very unique position where we can see the big picture when students cannot," she says. "We are familiar with how certain departments and colleges work. We know all of the available campus resources and which might be the right fit for you."

Ongoing advising is an important part of the CSU's Graduation Initiative 2025, which aims to ensure all students have the chance to graduate in a timely manner according to their personal goals.

Even if you're not struggling in college, by regularly checking in with an advisor you can ensure that you're on track and identify potential roadblocks to graduation as early as possible. Formulating a personalized, detailed plan can make the difference between graduating in four years and five, six, or more years.

"Advisors provide that extra nudge. We are a hub that can connect them with others who can help them better navigate their path toward graduation," Thompson states. "Students should not expect to know everything; that is very overwhelming."

Working With Students

It's common for students — especially first-time freshmen or transfer students — to have misconceptions or be unsure about what an advisor does, exactly.  

"Sometimes students will compare advisors to their high school counselors who tell them what their classes are going to be for the year," explains Thompson. "That is not the case here."

When you're in college, your advisor will work closely with you to plan your time on your CSU campus, perhaps sharing advice about internships or career resources, or helping you plan for life post-graduation.

Students often also fear advisors will judge them, be disappointed or won't understand them, or that they will be strictly concerned with course selection and registration. 

"Academic advising goes beyond class selection and scheduling," stresses Kathy Thornhill, director of undergraduate advising, career services and community-based learning at Humboldt State University. "It is an intensive process that takes into account the whole student and their college experience. It is valuable to have a non-judgmental, non-evaluative adult in students' lives throughout their college experience.

"Advisors are often the student's bridge between the classroom and the out-of-classroom opportunities to enhance their degree."

​​​8 Valuable Ways an Advisor Can Help You

  • Work with you to develop short- and long-term goals and make a detailed plan for how to realistically achieve your goals

  • Link what you're learning in class to your interests and potential careers 

  • Identify when you're struggling academically and develop strategies and identify resources that will enable you to stay on track to graduation 

  • Broaden your view of what's possible; your advisor can present different options and alternative pathways as challenges arise 

  • Introduce you to self-care resources, like free counseling services 

  • Connect you with volunteer, study abroad, research, financial aid, leadership, internship and career opportunities 

  • Recommend free tutoring services or financial assistance services 

  • Assist with time management and scheduling, so you can balance your responsibilities