Three Myths

Academic advisors at Boston College play an important role in your education, but they can’t do everything for you. Here are a few common misconceptions about what advisors can and can’t do.

Myth 1: My advisor has all the answers.

Universities are complex organizations, and no advisor is omnicompetent. That’s why advisors often refer students to specialized advising available from University offices or individual members of the faculty or staff. 

If your advisor refers you to specialized advising, you should expect him or her follow up with you, both to assess the helpfulness of the referral and to assist as you integrate the information you received into your academic and personal plans.

Myth 2: My advisor will tell me what courses to take.

Students often ask advisors to recommend particular courses or to volunteer opinions about which class or course section is “better than” another. Conscientious and ethical advisors will always decline to make such recommendations. Each University course offers a different experience for every student who enrolls in it, and course structures and assignments change markedly from year to year.

Successful students learn to test out their own interests and preferences by meeting with course instructors, looking at course web sites and assigned readings, and carefully reading the syllabus for any course they are considering.

Advisors support the decision-making process by pointing out how students can assemble information to make informed choices, but, in the end, the student — not the advisor — decides on an academic program within the broad guidelines set by the University.

Myth 3: My advisor is my buddy.

Entering students often expect instant rapport with their undergraduate advisors, forgetting how much time and effort it took to build relationships with faculty and staff during high school. University students and advisors share responsibility for making the advising process work.

Students sometimes find the candor of university advising conversations surprising and even uncomfortable. In fact, candid conversations are a hallmark of advising relationships grounded in mutual respect. They are entirely consistent with the expectation that, in all discussions, advisors will do their best to make students aware of the options, then will respect each student’s right and responsibility to make his or her own academic and personal choices and to accept the consequences of those choices.

What You Can Expect from Your Advisor

You can expect that your advisor will be familiar with the Core Curriculum and with University resources, and that your major advisor will understand your department’s course requirements. In addition, your advisor should be reasonably available for appointments and respond promptly to email or phone messages. Finally, you can expect your advisor to address any academic issues that arise, and to alert you to the potential consequences of particular decisions.