Students enter college with myriad hopes and dreams; these might include learning a specialized skill or a particular body of knowledge, obtaining a promising and rewarding career, or gaining a sense of personal achievement. Though many may complete college with the sense that they’re successful, others will admit that they’ve struggled to achieve or accomplish all that they’d hoped.

In our recent white paper, “Students to Colleges: Get Us Work-Ready!,” we explore how the college experience compared to student expectations. Among many topics, we asked students to tell us whether or not they feel confident in their ability to successfully achieve their own goals.

Through the survey, we noted that—quite surprisingly—84% of the respondents call it at least “somewhat difficult” to achieve their own definition of success.

Though you do all you can as an educator to support student success in your courses, the onus remains on students to set, work towards, and achieve their academic, personal, and professional goals. But what if they don’t know how, or where, to begin? How can they begin to get where they need to go?

One thing they can do is meet with one of their school’s academic advisers. Our study revealed that, though more than 80% knew they had an adviser, 72% met with their adviser no more frequently than once a semester. This data indicates that a large number of students can, and should, take greater advantage of their colleges’ advising services, which could help them set stronger goals and achieve success.

Though even one visit may give students more clarity and insight into their academic and professional choices, encourage them to meet with their advisers more than one time per term. A solid, consistent student–adviser relationship can help students make the most of their academic opportunities, while also opening up conversations that can guide them along the pathway to success.

Making the most of the student–adviser relationship

Do you recommend that your students visit their academic advisers? If so, suggest that they first review these tips, summarized from Steve Staley and Dr. Constance Staley’s FOCUS on College and Career Success, Second Edition:

  1. Don’t miss the opportunity to speak with an adviser! Advisers are there to help you; by seeking their assistance, you may avoid mistakes that cost you time and money.
  2. Plan ahead. Make an appointment. Review your school’s schedule of classes, and be aware of your own schedule so that you and your adviser can create a plan that will lead to success. Give the adviser your contact information, so that he or she can follow up accordingly. Write up a list of questions you may have.
  3. Don’t wait! Make an appointment as soon as it’s feasible, so that you don’t miss any important deadlines or opportunities.
  4. Don’t try to avoid, delay, or skip prerequisites. Those courses prepare you for success in subsequent courses.
  5. Ask for advice regarding your major. Your academic adviser can help you select a major that best suits your interests, skills, and potential career paths.
  6. Talk about the optimal number of units to take on each term. Don’t take too few courses—you’ll spend longer than you need to in college. On the other hand, don’t take too many—you’ll feel overworked and overstressed, and you won’t have enough time to devote to each course. When making these decisions, take into account the classes you need to take, your work schedule, family obligations, and other factors that have an impact on the amount of time you have.
  7. Don’t sidestep difficult situations. Partner with your adviser to address serious problems, such as academic probation, as quickly and effectively as possible.
  8. Struggling with a course? Ask your adviser about the options available to you, such as one-on-one tutoring or your campus academic services center. If you ultimately decided to drop and re-take a course, be sure to ask how this might affect your financial aid. (Staley and Staley, 14-15).


Reference: Staley, Steve and Dr. Constance C. Staley. 2015. FOCUS on College and Career Success, 2e. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.


How do you help college students achieve their academic (and career) goals? What strategies for college and career success do you integrate into your course? Share your thoughts in the comments.

» Interested in learning more about students’ expectations and experiences in college? Download the white paper: “Students to Colleges: Get Us Work-Ready!”