Resolving Academic Advisor Issues

An important part of surviving graduate school is having a strong relationship with your academic advisor. Whether your advisor is assisting you with the class selection process, reviewing your dissertation or thesis, or conflict resolution skills for your academic dispute, your advisor is vital to your career as a graduate student. Before you even start meeting or are assigned to an academic advisor, do some research about your graduate program by talking to your peers about their advisors. Find out which advisors are the best in terms of meeting with students and genuinely caring about students’ academic careers. You might be assigned to a specific academic advisor your first semester, but usually you can request a specific person later in your program. Perhaps you even know some of the professors from classes that you have taken already.

After your first meeting with your academic advisor, you should have a good feeling about how he or she operates. Take some time to reflect on this meeting and to determine whether this is a person with whom you can successfully work over a long period of time. Consider your advisor’s professional presence, personality, and habits for timely communication. If you don’t get along your assigned academic advisor, you should request a new advisor as soon as possible.

Avoid just tolerating your relationship with your advisor. This can often lead to loathing your education, procrastinating scheduling your classes, and not making significant progress on your thesis and dissertation. Don’t be ashamed about switching advisors! Remember that you are paying not only for classes but also for an educational experience that should include professional assistance. If you do decide to change advisors, do so with caution and professionalism; you do not want to make enemies with any of the faculty members in your program.

Remember that your academic advisor has a busy schedule as well. Be patient and understanding when working with your advisor (especially if you are waiting for your advisor to read your dissertation or thesis), keeping in mind that you are not your advisor’s top priority. Do not be annoying with constant emails, calls, or unscheduled surprises in your advisor’s office! This can result in your academic advisor taking even longer to help you. However, if your advisor has not responded to a question or to your attempts to schedule a meeting, one follow-up email (after a week or so) is appropriate. Your advisor is a human being and, just like you, makes some mistakes from time to time. The important thing is not to let this get in the way of maintaining a healthy working relationship with your academic advisor.

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