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Fall 2014 Advising Timely Topics Article: Academic Advising 2014

Greetings to all parents (of returning, new and prospective students):

With the fall semester well underway, some of you will be hearing regularly from your student and others not as much.  It’s all within the realm of “normal”!  Your students are growing into their adult selves – learning to take responsibility for things that may have been done for them in the past.  As parents, we’ve all had to learn to step back (remember how it felt when they started driving?) and to find new ways to be involved and supportive. 

Please know that the University's primary relationship is with the student; you'll see the implications of this in a variety of ways. One of the biggest changes is with regard to your student's records (i.e. academic, financial, health). Once enrolled in a college or university, ONLY the student has access to records, unless s/he has provided expressed written release to a specific person. Read more about the FERPA policy to understand this federal law . . . it's a big (and sometimes shocking!) change for many parents. Check out Undergraduate Advising's webpage for parents, which will give you more information on FERPA and other pertinent topics.

As a parent you are uniquely poised to help students understand and embrace the concept of being proactive and accountable. You can be most helpful to your undergraduate by reinforcing the following:

  • The STUDENT is responsible for managing his/her academic program, and their choices (academically and outside of class) all have impact on their future;
  • Successful students go to class, complete class assignments and manage their time wisely (as well as being engaged – in a balanced way – in extracurricular options and having fun);
  • It's vitally important for students to take the initiative to connect with advisors, faculty and/or staff members to whom they can bring questions and ask for help (early and often!);
  • Mistakes (most of them) are actually a helpful way to learn (see the September Washington Post Article)  and help students cultivate resilience, which is one of the strongest predictors of success in college and in life (see Angela Duckworth’s work on Key to Success)

Academic advising and academic dean’s services, for undergraduates, are deployed according to a student’s School/College, and their major.  Students who have yet to declare a major at UMass receive their academic advising and dean’s services through the office of Undergraduate Advising (UA).  Across campus, academic advisors work to empower students with reliable, accurate information and referrals so they can successfully pursue their academic goals. There are a wide range of services an academic advisor may provide: help to identify academic options that align with student interests and abilities, information about appropriate courses and opportunities, referrals to resources and supports, strategies to overcome academic setbacks, and assistance in understanding General Education, major and/or college graduation requirements are but a few.  Note: Although we recommend regular contact, in most cases, students are not required to see an academic advisor every semester.

As the fall semester flies by, the period when students choose their courses for next semester will be coming soon, in mid-November.  Ideally, during October, students will connect with their academic advisors, and perhaps attend the Majors Fair (10/29) to speak with representatives from various academic departments and programs on campus.  As always, we urge students to assume personal responsibility for being a college student by proactively gathering GOOD information, planning ahead, and advocating for themselves.  UMass offers - and promotes - extensive resources, supports and opportunities . . . but the student needs to learn to come forward to take advantage of them.

We're grateful for the opportunity to provide parents – important partners in this exciting journey - some information about academic advising at UMass Amherst and how you can support your student.  Follow the links provided to find a wealth of information on the UMass website. You can also check out our Undergraduate Advising Blog, which posts information (3-5 times a week, during the academic semesters) pertinent to undergraduate academic programs.  We encourage you (and your student) to explore!  A student’s college years are an important developmental moment.  As a parent or family member, when you become familiar with the many programs and services that are available to students, you can feel confident as you encourage your student (s) to ‘take care of business' and make the most of their UMass education.