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Unlike in high schools, academic resources are often differentiated in the college setting.

Rather than turning to a guidance counselor for most, or all, of their class-adjacent questions, your student will soon enter a more complex context. It’s important that both you and your student know what to expect of their academic landscape so they can make the most of it from the start.Their academic landscape will involve three things: academic on-boarding, academic advising, and academic support. Here’s what to expect in each of these areas.

Academic On-boarding: The time between committing to the institution and actually beginning classes is important in many ways, but we don’t often associate it with importance to students’ academic experience. Yet many students transfer in college credits after earning dual-enrollment credits or having passed AP exams. It’s important to make sure your students’ transcript is evaluated before they register for their first semester of classes to ensure they are on the most efficient path to a degree.

At most institutions, your enrollment counselor, or someone in admissions, is the best person to ask about getting your student’s transcript evaluated for the transferability of their previously-earned credits into a particular program or major. You can also ask about their estimated time to degree, which is helpful for calculating total costs.

Also note, this evaluation will need to happen each time a student changes their major, so it’s not final unless the student sticks with the program for which their credits were originally evaluated.

Academic Advising: After your student begins classes, an academic advisor will be their point person for knowing which classes they need to take. Sometimes the academic advisor is a faculty member in their academic major. Other times the academic advisor is a “professional advisor” who works in this capacity full-time.

Because first-year and upper-level students have nuanced needs for advising support, some institutions provide students with a professional advisor during the first-year, and then they transition to a faculty advisor in the second year, or upon selecting a major. For the same reason, academic advising is sometimes required for students in their first semesters on campus.

While your student may get to meet their academic advisor during a summer orientation or prior to the start of their first semester, that’s not common. Most students will meet with their academic advisors for the first-time once classes are underway.

For now, it’s likely best to direct advising-related questions to your enrollment counselor or an admissions representative. They can connect you with the information you need from the academic advisor or from the registrar’s office—which is the office that keeps official academic records and serves in related capacities, like managing academic policies.

Academic Support: Students may be in a program where academic support and tutoring are facilitated by their particular program or school within the larger university. Or there may be a central center for academic support, which is typically the case at smaller or liberal arts institutions. Tutoring services are also increasingly offered online, which can be great for students who need tutoring or writing support on demand.

When your student needs tutoring in a class, there may be a physical center where they can simply show up, or they may need to ask their professor or teaching assistant about the best way to receive help in that particular subject matter.

A quick way to identify your student’s academic support resources is to Google their school and program, and add “academic support” or “tutoring.” Schools like to promote these resources to students as a way to attract them to the institution. These services should be relatively easy to locate online.

Taking advantage of resources that support well-being in college begins with knowing they exist and how to find them. Both you and your student will benefit from knowing what to expect of their academic landscape as they prepare for a smooth transition to college-level learning.

About Jennifer Tharp, Ph.D.

Dr. Jennifer Tharp is an alumna of Azusa Pacific University where she earned a Ph.D. in Higher Education. Dr. Tharp teaches at the graduate level and consults nationally in the area of student success. Visit Dr. Jennifer Tharp's website.