The Advising Process: Discussing Problems or Significant Changes in Students' Plans

Many college students encounter difficulties with a particular course or with larger academic or personal issues. Even when that isn't the case, doubts, questions, and changes in plans are not unusual as students gain in knowledge of themselves and their interests. Expect at least some of your advisees to need special guidance at one of these turning points.

Change of Major or School

Advisees may want to change majors or even schools at Fairfield. Because students initiate such changes and need approval from deans or department chairs, an advisee might not even ask your opinion first. Advisees might also find the discussion awkward, fearing that you might take their decision as a negative comment on the discipline you have chosen as your career. Instead, changing schools or majors is often a natural part of a college student's development and exploration. If your advisee does share such a change in plans with you, value the decision for the progress it represents for his or her academic journey. If necessary, consult the procedures for changing a school or major.

Withdrawals from classes

Students who withdraw from a class after add/drop period will receive a "W" on their transcript. Although a "W" does not affect a student's GPA, repeated "W" notations may indicate serious personal problems, difficulties with motivation and academic requirements, or struggles with decisions about programs of study. When you see a "W" notation - and especially more than 1 or 2 - on a degree evaluation, ask why your advisee did not find the course or courses to be a good fit.

If you believe, based on your discussion, that your advisee could benefit from specialized assistance, refer him or her to one of the following offices:

  • For personal, family, or health issues: Counseling & Psychological Services or the Student Health Center
  • For tutoring and other academic support:
    • Disability Support Services
    • Writing Center
    • Math Center
  • For help with deciding on a new program of study: Office of Exploratory Academic Advising

Personal, Family, or Health Issues

If your advisee mentions problems at home, with personal relationships, with his or her health, or with anything that is not strictly academic, you may be uncertain about how to respond. It may help to realize that such disclosures by advisees indicate their trust in you and the strong connection you have built with them.

Express your concern and allow your advisee to talk if he or she wants to. In nearly all cases, though, you can help your advisee best by providing a referral to another office on campus - one whose staff members are trained to handle those issues - such as:

  • Counseling & Psychological Services, which offers free, confidential services for full-time undergraduates, and also information for faculty and staff on recognizing students in distress
  • The Student Health Center, which provides primary and preventive health care through a staff of nurse practitioners and registered nurses
  • The dean's office of your advisee's school