Academic Advising

One of the key duties of your academic advisor is to help you construct an educational program consonant with your interests and graduation requirements. Academic advisors help students make decisions by drawing upon their own educational experiences and their understanding of the variety of ways in which students thrive at Oberlin. Advisors are most often members of the teaching faculty, but some members of the professional staff serve as advisors for first- and second-year students.

As the title of the role suggests, your advisor works with you in an advising capacity. The decisions you make? They are yours and yours to own. Your advisor might try to persuade you to take one course of action over another, but in the end, your advisor honors your agency and your ability to make your own decisions. Each semester, during the registration period for the subsequent semester, you need to meet with your advisor ahead of your registration window to discuss your proposed schedule. Toward the end of your meeting, your advisor is expected to provide you with your registration alternate personal identification number (“RAP number”), which you need in order to register. Your possession of your RAP number indicates that you have met with your advisor and, ideally (but not always), that you have agreed upon a balanced selection of courses for you for the upcoming semester. In turn, you are responsible for your final choices, and for ensuring that you fulfill the general requirements and the requirements of your major.

Advisors, of course, can do much more than simply help a student with course selection and review graduation requirements. To begin, your advisor may ask about your proposed schedule, in terms of balance across the divisions of arts and humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences and mathematics, and ask you about how these courses coincide with your academic strengths and weaknesses. Some advisors challenge their advisees to think about alternative possibilities; others encourage students to present the pros and cons of their proposed selections. In each of these cases, the advisor is encouraging the student to make clear goals, consider various options, and make careful choices.

If you arrive at meetings with your advisor prepared to answer such questions, you can improve the likelihood that your conversation with your advisor will include a review of the bigger, more resonant questions at this phase of your life: What does it all mean? What am I doing here? How do I forge a balance between my studies, both of my extra-curricular obligations, and my social life? How can I leave Oberlin a better place than I found it?

While faculty advisors may be most knowledgeable about the courses in their own departments, faculty advisors can also help you find information from other sources. Faculty members at Oberlin are accessible via office hours and e-mail, and you can often seek answers to your questions face-to-face with faculty from another department.

Advisor Assignments and Changing Advisors

As noted here, students in the arts and sciences learn about their advisor assignment during orientation, and the vast majority of students keep that advisor until they formally declare a major. The advising information submitted online by the student is closely considered in the initial assignment of an academic advisor. A student may change advisor at any time by finding another member of the faculty or advising staff to agree to serve as advisor and, in turn, by notifying the Office of the Dean of Studies. Students who need assistance with this decision are encouraged to meet with a dean of studies. To change advisors prior to major declaration, the student needs to have the new advisor sign the change of advisor card from the Office of the Dean of Studies, and return it to Peters 205. Part of the process of declaring a major includes selecting as your advisor a member of the major department. If a student declares an individual major, one or more faculty members will supervise the student’s progress and serve as advisors. Please note: When you declare or change a major, the change of advisor will be done through the major declaration form. You do not need to complete the change of advisor card.

Advising in the College

Arts and Sciences students are assigned a general advisor until they formally declare a major. A student's expressed academic area of interest is taken into account, as much as possible, in the initial assignment of a general advisor. Typically, a student will have the same advisor for the first two years of college. However, it is easy to change advisors – to do so, download or pick up a change of advisor card from the Office of the Dean of Studies, Peters 205, have it signed by your new advisor, and then return it to the Office of the Dean of Studies. When your major is declared, a member of the major department will become your advisor. If a student declares an individual major, one or more faculty members will supervise the student's progress and serve as advisors. Please note: When you declare or change a major, the change of advisor will be done through the major declaration form. You do not need to complete the change of advisor card.

Advising for Double-Degree Students

Double-degree students must have two advisors. One is a member of the Arts and Sciences faculty, initially in or near the field of expressed interest, and ultimately in the major field. The other advisor is a conservatory faculty member in the appropriate conservatory major. Double-degree students are required to meet with both advisors before registering for courses.

Advising for International Students

Additional academic and personal advising for international students, US permanent residents, and US citizens living abroad is provided by the two international student advisors in the Office of the Dean of Studies, Peters 205. These advisors also handle immigration matters and provide direction and support when international students deal with other campus offices, such as Financial Aid, the Registrar, Student Accounts, Residential Life and Dining Services, and the Counseling Center.