What's this about advising?

As some of you may know I am an alumnus of this program.  I started in the spring of 2008 and graduated in December of 2010. I had a lot of fun with in the program, but I think the one thing I never really took proper advantage of was advising!  So, in writing this info-post to my slightly younger self, I hope that it helps you reframe advising :-)

Near the end of my first semester, on-campus, I was asked to sign-up for an advisor in class.  Back then the selection was pretty blind, six sheets of paper with lines, six different names.  I honestly had not looked at the who was teaching and what their expertise were - I just knew I liked languages and I wanted to learn more about them - hence I applied to this program.  I selected Dr. Etienne because out of all of the faculty I knew she did work on French Linguistics and that was an interest of mine at the time.  I loved both of my advisors, Dr. Etienne as my main advisor, and Dr. Leistyna as the person who filled in while Dr. Etienne was on sabbatical, however I approached advising purely in the "these are the courses I want to take" mentality. I never really showed up at the advising session prepared to ask questions beyond the curriculum or what I was going to take next semester.  

So, what advice would I give to my younger self?  Well, first I would say look at the tentative schedule of courses and prepare a tentative study plan for yourself (the tentative schedule is in the classroom group). Back then I didn't have the luxury of a tentative schedule, but now we have it, so why not use it?  The truth is that most of curriculum is set (5-6 core courses, 2 concentration courses, and 2-3 elective courses), so it might seem like your course choices are limited, but there are choices to make.  For example, why are you pursuing the track that you are pursuing (ESL & Bilingual Studies or Foreign Language)? What is the goal?  Look at the elective courses that we have (for a list see our website) - what fascinates you and why?  What electives would you love to take? Is there anything that you'd love to take but we don't have?  You can transfer up to 2 courses from another institution or department if your advisor pre-approved them!

Armed with this knowledge of what you might be interested and why, another thing that I would consider developing some questions around is "what next".  It is important to savor the moment, but there ought to be some larger goal.  What are you, a student in applied linguistics, aiming toward? What will you do after you graduate?  It's definitely OK to not know the answer to this! If you don't know the answer, or if the answer might be to scary to contemplate, then think about some things that you enjoy doing and how applied linguistics might fit into this!  For some a PhD or EdD is of interest after the MA in Applied Linguistics, in such a case perhaps some types of elective courses make more sense than others. This is something you can discuss with your advisor.

This brings me to my third point.  When I was a student I picked an advisor blindly. You don't have to!  Even though you are assigned an initial advisor at the beginning of your studies, you can change your advisor as your interests change or further develop.  To find out how to change your advisor please read this info post. While I loved my advisors, had I followed my advice, I probably would have also picked Dr. Meyer's brain a little more because I discovered that I was interested in Corpus Linguistics and would probably have liked to pursue that a little more as a student.

So, what now? How often do you meet with your advisor?  Well, that's negotiable between you and your advisor.  At the very least you need to meet at least 2 times per year otherwise you can't sign up for courses.  However, if you develop rapport very strong with your advisor and you want to get their opinion more often than average, I am sure that our faculty would love to have those conversations.  


As always, if you find this post useful give it a "like" :-)

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of umbapling3 to add comments!

Join umbapling3