Are academic advisors actually advising?

By Nada Ibrahim

Students at the UW raised concerns to Imprint about the service they received from their academic advisors. 

The students wished to remain anonymous, as they said they feared their faculty would reach out to them and cause complications. 

“I went to my academic advisor last term for advice on courses to take over the summer and I was pretty disappointed with the fact that they did not notify me about the deadlines because of which I had to pay late fees. They were also late in getting back to me and I had to keep following up” said a second-year undergraduate student at the UW who wished to remain anonymous. “This was particularly annoying as I am an international student and already pay so much,” they added. 

A reddit user, u/throw10763, expressed their disappointment in the advice they received from their academic advisor by posing a question to the redditors of r/uwaterloo, asking them, “Does anyone have an undergraduate advisor that actually advises?” 

Imprint reached out to the user but received no response. 

Academic advisors are university employees who are dedicated to helping undergraduate students reach their academic goals. They help students select their courses and go over academic requirements. 

Academic advisors also help with modifications of plans and creating a unique program suiting your needs. 

“She basically wasn’t really helpful, and I had to do my own research and rely on help from seniors,” said another second-year undergraduate student at the UW who also wished to remain anonymous. 

“I was told I won’t be on co-op, so I was okay with that but then they enrolled me in PD1 and I was surprised as to what was happening,” they said. 

The student feared that their reputation in the faculty may be hampered and therefore wished to remain anonymous. 

“They were really bad at replying to emails, and I had to rely on seniors and my own research. I have stopped going to her now and do all the research and course selection on my own.” the second student said. 

David DeVidi, Associate Vice-President, Academic at UW recognized that academic advising is an area where there is always room for improvement as it is always changing and evolving. 

UW initiated an Academic Advising Community of Practice (CoP), where all staff and faculty advisors regularly meet to share best practices and learn about how to improve the services they offer to students,” said DeVidi. 

Graphic by Lakshmi Vinoj

In addition to this, each faculty also provides additional training and support specifically for their own advisors. 

“UW strives to provide each and every student with academic advising that meets their needs and expectations and to offer every student the tools they need to be successful in their academic careers,” DeVidi added. 

UW said they regularly review academic advising during their quality assurance processes. They look at who provides academic advising, how they are doing it, and how the level of advising contributes to the student experience. DeVidi also said that they continue to welcome feedback from our students about how we can make their advising experience better. 

On the other hand, u/thetermguy, on a post on the university’s unofficial subreddit, acknowledged their help and credited them for their advice because of which he was able to excel at university. 

“They advised me of my options. They encouraged me. They acted as a proponent and advocated for me repeatedly, across years. And they started this the very first day I came back by reaching out and offering to help me”. They added that without their efforts they would be nowhere near their degree. Each faculty has their own set of advisors who also specialize in specific programs and help students make the right course selection to complete their degree requirements, answering any other questions related to academic policies and regulations.