Advising

In the College of Arts and Sciences, academic advisors are faculty members. Faculty teach the courses and design the curricula, so who better to guide students in course selection and curriculum navigation?

Are you undecided or do you already have a plan?

Most students who enter the College are undecided about their major. We welcome the undecided student who is curious about a range of possibilities. The undecided student needs to begin exploring the opportunities and to approach the task with an open mind. College courses are taught by instructors who are expert practitioners in their fields, and students can expect such courses to be more stimulating and challenging than what they experienced in high school. In addition, the range of opportunities is much broader than in high school, and contact with new disciplines is a great way to stimulate one's curiosity. Without an open mind, you'll miss a lot of the intellectual excitement we have to offer.

Students who enter the College with a definite plan can begin right away to take courses that advance them in their major, but they also benefit from exploring other possibilities. Many of them will change their minds about their major, so they need options almost as much as undecided students need options.

Who's responsible for this education?

The ultimate responsibility for making course selections and for selecting a major is the student's. We believe that it is essential for students to acquire ownership of their own educations, and key steps in acquiring ownership are to accept responsibility, inform oneself about options and requirements, and make decisions in a timely fashion after weighing the cousequences. Students who develop their autonomous capacity for making decisions are better learners. Advisors provide guidance, but they do not make students' choices for them.

Students who enter the College with a definite plan can begin right away to take courses that advance them in their major, but they also benefit from exploring other possibilities. Many of them will change their minds about their major, so they need options almost as much as undecided students need options.

Advisors and Major Declaration

Entering students are assigned a non-major advisor who will assist with the early academic decisions a student must make. On declaring a major, a student is assigned to a major advisor--a faculty member in the major program. Students can declare a major whenever they are ready, but we recommend declaring before the junior year for optimal registration advice in major programs. Many students declare majors sometime in their second semester on campus. To declare a major contact the department coordinator of the major program to arrange an appointment to sit with a faculty advisor and declare.

Reasonable expectations of the academic advisor

The College academic advisor is quite different from the high school guidance counselor. Advisors are, first and foremost, faculty members. Your advisor will be available to help you with academic issues but will expect you to get involved in your own educational process and to prepare yourself for making choices. Your advisor will help you sort out your options and understand the consequences of decisions in light of rules, procedures, and program requirements but will leave choices to you. Your advisor will generally not solve your problems but will help you understand the issues, consider your resources, and test the feasibility and utility of different solutions.

How the student can get the most out of the advising system

Students need to be informed about program requirements and important deadlines for certain actions (e.g., dropping a course). A student needs to be realistic about the advisor's availability and contact the advisor for assistance in a timely fashion. Email is the best method for initial contact, if only to arrange a time to meet. Course registration is done online at Lehigh, and it is important for the student to know and follow the correct procedures. Registering late or otherwise incorrectly could lead to problems getting the courses you want. The student also needs to be proactive--anticipate the need for decisions and be prepared for making them--and to actively seek information from the advisor, course instructors, and department office staff as needed.

No single advisor knows everything or can answer every question, so it's important for the student to develop a reliable resource network. In addition to the advisor, instructors in courses the student finds interesting, faculty in major programs the student is considering, Career Services staff, Dean of Students personnel, and Associate Deans of the Colleges can be very worthwhile resources.