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Academic Advice

Each individual has strengths, challenges, skills, interests, and aspirations. We have resources at Whitman to help you assess your strengths and challenges, sharpen your skills, explore your interests, and support your aspirations. Take advantage of the wealth of experience and advice from faculty, staff, and students during your time at Whitman to help you clarify and achieve your goals.

Academic Advising

Ultimately, the responsibility to be well-informed and to make personally satisfying choices belongs to you. Your academic advisor, however, is one of many individuals on campus who will be happy to assist you in developing an academic plan, creating realistic goals, and gaining a clear understanding of the academic requirements to graduate.

Role of the Academic Advisor

  • Assistance with course selection
    Discussing your interests and goals, reviewing graduation requirements, and assessing appropriate course levels based on competence.
  • Assistance with course load
    Assisting you to assess your academic preparation, study skills, and the demands of the courses involved.
  • Assistance with academic problems during the semester
    Examples of problems that might impact your course work include inadequate high school preparation, heavy course load, problems with study skills/time management, personal problems, changes in your interests or goals, or family pressure. Deficiency slips, failure to attend class, and missing or late assignments or tests are often warning signs of a problem that might require consultation with your adviser.
  • Referral to campus resources
    Although your advisor might not know the answer to every question, they will be able to recommend other campus resources who can help.
  • A different perspective
    Faculty members can provide you with a valuable perspective on their own field, and on a Whitman education based on years of experience in academia.

When Should You See Your Academic Advisor?


  • Meet with your advisor in person as scheduled during registration periods.
  • Meet with your advisor every time you make a change in your registration (i.e. drop, add, P-D-F, or withdraw from a class).
  • Be prepared – Your advisor can’t help you if you don’t help yourself. Be familiar with the catalog, your academic evaluation, and other official documents.
  • Hold up your end of the relationship – your advisor isn’t a mind reader – be sure to give them enough information to be a good adviser.
  • It is very important to talk with your advisor in person if you:
    • receive a deficiency slip;
    • are disappointed or concerned by the grades you are receiving in any of your classes;
    • need additional campus resources, but don’t know where to turn.

Don’t be embarrassed. Your academic advisor is here to help.

Other Suggestions

  • Remember that a faculty member doesn’t have to be listed as your official advisor in order to give good advice. Feel free to consult with any member of the faculty. For example, if you are interested in medicine and your advisor is a philosopher, you might get excellent general advice from your advisor, but may still want to consult with members of the pre-med committee about the specific requirements for that field.
  • Drop in on your advisor during their scheduled office hours to say hello, touch base or invite them to lunch. Faculty members are people, too.

If you have questions about advising or cannot find your advisor, contact the Academic Resource Center, Memorial 325.

Changing Your Advisor

All students have a pre-major advisor until they declare a major, at which time they choose a major advisor. If at any point you would like to change your pre-major advisor, contact Juli Dunn, Senior Associate Dean of Students, Memorial 330.

Student Academic Advisors

Student Academic Advisors (SAs) are sophomore and junior students who are selected for their solid academic and personal accomplishments. They create academic programs and hold weekly office hours to assist first-year students. SAs are assigned first-year student sections and may be involved in residence hall activities. The primary job of the SA is to serve as an academic tour guide. This involves acquainting first-year students with the academic programs, opportunities, and expectations at Whitman. Each first-year student is welcome to meet with an SA during posted office hours and to attend any and all provided programs. Once registration is over and you are comfortably settled into a set of classes that suit your interests and goals, your SA will provide information on a wide range of academic issues.
If you have questions about what it means to P-D-F a class, how to find out more about studying for physics, where to find a tutor in economics, what to expect from your first blue book exam, how to improve your time management, or other academically related skills, your SA can help you discover the answer or put you in touch with someone who can.

Frequently Asked Questions and Concerns

(and answers from the Fall 2014 Student Academic Advising Staff)

How do I manage my time well?

At Whitman, you will be presented with countless academic and extracurricular opportunities.  It is important to manage your time well so that you can make the most of your college experience.  An essential part of time management is planning ahead.  By using your Student Planner, and dividing your tasks into manageable portions, you can complete your work more efficiently and have time remaining to fit additional activities that you enjoy into your schedule.  Finding a time and place where you can focus allows you to work diligently and effectively.  Don't forget to take study breaks!  While college can seem overwhelming, by managing your time, you can find the balance needed to succeed.

- Isabel Christy and Sam Reddy

How do I balance academics and social life?

In college, balancing academics and a social life boils down to time management. You will live in close proximity to your friends, so it becomes especially important to spend your time intentionally.  Try using a time manager to allocate time to study and time to spend with friends.  It is helpful to find a place to study where you will not be distracted, such as the library or an academic building.  Go to the Activities Fair at the beginning of the semester and see if you are interested in any of the clubs (you probably will be). Clubs are a great way to meet new people and take a break from studying, but make sure that you still have enough time to be a student. Study groups can be a great way to spend time with friends and be productive, if you study well with other people. If you ever need help balancing your academics and social life, feel free to ask your SA; they would love to help you out!

- Hannah Alverson and Groover Snell

What are the biggest differences between high school and college?

College is a chance for you to take charge of your own learning. While in high school you might have been used to working through a textbook and being told precisely what you need to know for a test.  In college, your learning should extend beyond simply passing a test or filling our a worksheet. You take fewer classes and spend less time in class each day than you did in high school, so you will have to adjust to managing most of your time rather than having it be managed for you. Depending on the class, you may have fewer graded assignments than you did in high school, and instead just have a few big projects. Your professors probably won't give you frequent reminders about deadline either, so it's important to stay on top of your work and keep track of when everything is due so things don't sneak up on you. In addition to the new format of classes, if can be difficult adjusting to study methods that are both efficient and effective. Living in residence halls means that, if you choose to be, you can be surrounded by what seems to be a perpetually social atmosphere. Some students are fine with distractions and frequent study breaks to chat while others need quieter, more isolated environments to focus on their work. Figuring out how and where you study best — whether it's in your room, the library, the Reid basement, or the section lounge — will be a great way to further smooth the transition from high school to college.

- Hallie Barker and Olivia Sasaki

How do I plan a class schedule and declare a major?

As a first year student, registration will occur during your first week on campus. To help with your planning process, the Whitman College Catalog is released online and your SA will have a hard copy for you to peruse. In addition to the First Year Seminar, you will have around three additional classes to select. Keep in mind that this is the time to try out classes that seem interesting to you! There will be an add/drop period during the first few weeks of classes for you to finalize your schedule.

You are not required to declare a major until the second semester of your sophomore year. Many students are interested in exploring the different academic paths that Whitman has to offer before deciding which major field of study to pursue. Your first year is the perfect time to experience different classes to begin to discover what you are passionate about! There are several resources available to assist you in the major selection process: your pre-major adviser, advisers of the proposed major study, your SA, the staff in the Academic Resource Center and staff in the Student Engagement Center will prove to be invaluable in your decision making process.

- Elise Frank and Nikita Komachkov

I’m so scared for college exams! Help!

Set yourself up for success by going to class and actively engaging with the material to ensure you understand it. Professors, classmates, tutors and your SAs are all valuable resources to help solidify your learning. College exams are often longer and more comprehensive that those you experienced in high school, so don't leave studying until the night before the exam. Get a restful sleep the night before, and eat a nutritious breakfast.  Both of these will help ensure your brain is functioning at its optimum. When you get to the test, breathe! Read through all the questions, and start with the ones you know. Relax; you will do great! The Academic Resource Center offers a study skills workshop each semester on effective and efficient strategies for what to do before, during and after your test.

- John DeBuysser and Faith Nyakundi

How do I know which classes to take?

If you already have an idea of what you might want to major in, you can start by taking classes that department or classes that are prerequisites for one you want to take in the future. That way you'll get a general idea of what that major could be like and if you actually like it. Otherwise just explore and take classes that sound interesting to you. Look at all the classes in the catalog; don't limit yourself to one academic department. You'll be surprised at what classes you can find in different departments, even if it is something that at first may not interest you. Also, be sure to talk with your SA and your pre-major advisor. They will be able to give you more personalized advice.

- Lya Hernandez and Maria Kajercline

I am nervous that I will be overwhelmed with the difficulty of college level coursework!  What can I go to get help?

There are a multitude of resources here on campus to help you adjust to the expectations of your college professors! Your Student Academic Advisor (SA) will be a primary and easily accessible source to either directly help you with any difficulties or point you in the right direction for more specialized support. Your SA works in accordance with the Academic Resource Center (ARC) and can provide you with a variety of options that best suit your unique academic needs, including information about tutors for subject material or workshops to assist with study strategies.

- Ye He and Neha Naidoo

How do I study?

Everyone has different study habits and rituals, but the important thing is figuring our what works for you, and sticking to it. Ask your SA or the staff in the Academic Resource Center for a time manager planners; these can help you get used to your new college routine and establish times each day to set aside solely for studying.

It is important to determine where and when you study best, be it in the library basement at night, or Reid in the morning. Just remember to choose a place where you can be productive, not necessarily somewhere that is fun or distracting. If you end up talking more to your friends than working, your dorm room probably isn't the best study area. That being said, for certain subjects, group studying can sometimes be the most efficient way to prepare for an exam or understand the material.

Whenever you study, always set a tangible goal before you start.  Plan how long you will study or how much work you will do before you take a break, and commit to that amount. Decide what you will do for a break as well. For example, after 15 homework problems, you can play Frisbee with your friends for 10 minutes before you have to work again, or after reading 30 pages you can talk to your friends in the lounge for 12 minutes. Just make your study break involve a change in venue/activity and is something you look forward to-this will help motivate you to keep working. Whenever possible, get up from your desk, give your eyes a break from the screen/page, and move around in some way.

Overall, the most effective, efficient way to study depends largely on your preferences as an individual. Try different strategies to find what works best for you. If you need more study tips, don't hesitate to ask your SA and the staff at the ARC — that's what we're here for!

- Ben Caldwell and Paige Organick 

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