You want to go back to school to earn a degree, but you're busy trying to balance a full-time job with raising a family, so your time is limited.

That's why you're considering an online degree program.

But first, you have some questions.

One is how do you stay connected to your school when you're completing assignments at your kitchen table or the local bookstore?

How do you know if you're on track to earning your degree or meeting requirements for your major? How do you decide which courses to take? Where do you turn when you're having a tough time in a class or just need some encouragement?

The answer is: your student advisor.

Your student advisor is your single most important resource for being a successful online student.

Here's what a student advisor can do for you.

The purpose of academic advising

Whether you're learning on-campus or online, academic advising is a critical part of your educational experience.

Advisors are organized by program and stay with you until you graduate.

That means lots of personal attention over the entire course of your academic career.

Similar to a traditional advisor, a student advisor for an online degree program assists with the entire gamut of academic planning issues.

You should expect ongoing assistance with:

  • Setting realistic goals.
  • Deciding on a major.
  • Selecting courses.
  • Keeping you on track with graduation requirements.
  • Developing long-range academic planning.
  • Providing accurate information about curriculum, policies and procedures.
  • Monitoring your academic progress.

An advisor's role is multi-faceted, and you can expect more than help with registering for classes. Your advisor can facilitate appropriate academic support, as well as lead you toward resources to cope with stress and time management or to resolve technology issues.

What you should expect from your advisor


A skilled online advisor "gets it" when it comes to adult learners and the priorities and pressures that come with working, raising a family, and going to school. They understand that, perhaps, you've tried college before, and may need some help overcoming a less than successful experience or a negative mindset. Maybe you can use some extra support. They're good listeners who empathize with the juggling act you do every day.


Earning a degree – keeping up with coursework and discussion boards, meeting deadlines for assignments and papers, and preparing for tests – is difficult. It helps to know that there's someone in your corner who sincerely cares about you, your goals, your challenges, and your successes – someone who feels your pain when you're struggling, and celebrates your joy when you succeed. Your student advisor can be that person.


Busy working adults don't have time to waste. You need straight-forward, honest guidance. Advisors can provide the practical, timely information that will keep you progressing toward your degree and that is relevant to your career goals. They'll make sure you stay focused and on track.


Advisors keep all academic and personal information about their students confidential. They're committed to excellent service and deliver on their promises in a timely manner.


You should expect your advisor to be an expert in your academic field and possess a high-level of knowledge about curriculum, graduation requirements, university policies and procedures, academic resources, and career opportunities.


Your student advisor will reach out to you on a consistent basis, checking in regularly to find out how your courses are going and to offer assistance. He or she is with you throughout every term, just a phone call or email away.

Your responsibilities as a student

The academic advising process is a two-way street, a partnership between advisor and student. The goal is to empower you by helping you develop skills such as decision making and critical thinking that you can use to control your own education and apply to other parts of your life.

Here's what advisors expect of their students:

  • Be an active partner in the advising experience.
  • Maintain regular contact throughout the term.
  • Ask questions if you don't understand something or have a specific concern.
  • Become familiar with the various technologies, portals and social media that connect you to your university.
  • Complete recommendations and assignments.
  • Provide accurate and honest information regarding your personal values, goals, and expectations.
  • Become knowledgeable about university academic programs, policies, and procedures.
  • Accept responsibility for decisions made.

A relationship built on trust

While you'll meet and learn from numerous faculty members during your college career – and may develop great connections and working relationships with many of them – your advisor is a constant resource, your "go-to" person, as well as someone who will reach out to you regularly and help you discover your strengths, abilities and skills.

A coach, cheerleader, and number-one fan rolled into one.

Someone who will help bring out the best in you.

Someone you can trust.

Image Credit: johnwiechecki on Flickr/Creative Commons