Academic Advising 101

By Hayley Haldeman

Hey all!  My name is Hayley Haldeman.  I am the Head Peer Advisor for the Elliott School Office of Undergraduate Advising and Student Services, which means that I help coordinate the Peer Advising program in the Elliott School.  Peer advising is a great resource, as it allows students to speak with Elliott School upperclassmen who have received basic training in academic advising and can offer advice based on their own experiences with Elliott School classes, internships, and study abroad.

From my own experience in the Elliott School, I know that one of the most daunting administrative and academic tasks in your first year can be completing your four-year plan.  When I started this assignment, I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to take next semester, let alone the next three years!  There are several differents ways to approach this assignment, and I want to provide you with a few tips that I’ve found helpful, both as a student and as a Peer Advisor.

  1. Relax! Contrary to popular belief, you will not be required to take the classes you list on your four-year plan — in other words, it is definitely not binding.  It is, however, a great resource that familiarizes you with the classes available at GW and the guidelines for graduation.  You should, therefore, take it seriously, but do not let yourself become overwhelmed.
  2. Check Yourself! Remember all those AP, IB, etc. classes you took in high school that you are almost certain already count as credit?  Be certain!  One of the most important parts of registering for next semester is verifying in GWeb that all the credit you believe you should have received is in fact posted.  I have had students come in for advising who are missing various credits.  In order to fulfill the four-year plan assignment, you need to make sure that Bio class you took last year actually will count for the Math/Science Requirement…
  3. Concentrate! The most daunting part of the four-year plan is choosing a concentration.  If you don’t know what area you would like to focus on, again, relax — most freshmen are in the same situation.  However, you will need to choose one for the purpose of the assignment.  If you have no idea whatsoever, here are two pieces of advice: First, go through the top five or so concentrations that appeal to you, and put stars by whatever classes sound interesting.  Whatever concentration has the most stars, go with that one!  Second, there are a few class options that pop up for numerous concentrations.  If you are still unsure during your sophomore year, consider taking one or two of these classes as opposed to something really specific that will only apply to one concentration.  This way you will have the chance to take a class that will give you an idea of several different aspects of international affairs.  Geography 120 (Regional Geography) and Anthropology 150 (Human Rights and Ethics) are great examples and fantastic classes for many concentrations.
  4. Order! Another area of concern with the four-year plan is the order to take classes.  Some quick personal advice — definitely start Econ before your sophomore year.  No matter what concentration you choose, professors may touch on basic economic tenets from Econ 11 or 12 — it is very helpful to become familiar with them early.  Also, I know students will frequently try to get the Humanities requirement out of the way early, as these classes offer a nice balance to the more intense Political Science/History/International Affairs classes.  However, consider saving one or two for if/when you go abroad.  Although D.C. has great resources in regards to the Arts, it is much more impressive to take History of French Art while abroad in Paris, or Chinese Literature in Beijing.

Good luck!  For more help, come in to Peer Advising!

Hayley is a senior in the Elliott School, double concentrating in Europe and Conflict & Security and double minoring in History and Art History.  She will be attending the University of Virginia Law School in Fall 2009 to study International Law.

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