For Yale students, the academic adviser plays a key role in your studies and it is important to choose your adviser carefully and strive to build and maintain a good relationship. Advice specific to your Yale affiliation can be found below:
Undergraduates have a number of advisers that serve both academic and campus life support. Because of the often dual roles of undergraduate advisers, it is impossible to discuss one without addressing the other.
At the end of your freshman year, you will choose an adviser. It is helpful if you know what your major is going to be because eventually you will need to choose an adviser from the department of your major. Shopping around during the ‘shopping period’ is very helpful for comparing the styles of different professors. You will want to take advantage of this two-week period at the beginning of each semester where you can attend courses freely without being registered. ‘Shopping’ will be helpful in deciding on courses and may spark an interest in a field never before considered as a major; attend courses within your intended major, or within areas of interest.
You will want to be particularly careful when choosing the academic adviser in the department of your major since the undergraduate advisor will be one of the two people who read and evaluate your senior essay.
The residential college dean is crucial to so many aspects of an undergraduate’s college career. He or she also will not seek you out, but is accessible should you need to talk. Get to know the dean. The dean oversees freshman counseling and faculty advising, and is there to provide support in personal and academic matters. For problems with a specific course, the dean can help you work through it, even talking with your professor if necessary. The dean is also in charge of rooming draws, and handles rooming problems, excuses for missed classes, and more. Consult the dean especially if you find you have any serious problems affecting your life at Yale.
In your freshman year, your freshman counselor will be the adviser you consult the most, and plays an important role in helping you to get comfortable with life at Yale. Freshman counselors are seniors from your individual college who live in freshman housing along with the freshman class. They’ve been there before and are well situated to guide you through rough waters as well as provide the information and encouragement you may need. They provide less formal support and advice in personal and academic matters than you will receive from the dean or your academic adviser. They are simply there if you need them, and are not there to discipline you or enforce rules.
One of the formal roles of the freshman counselor is to approve and sign your course schedule, along with your dean and freshman adviser. Freshman counselors also arrange “blue-booking” get-togethers in your first week at Yale (intended to help you choose courses). They are on-call Thursday through Saturday nights, and will take care of you if you become ill or need assistance. Finally, your freshman counselor will not seek you out, or interfere in your life, so don’t wait for him or her to come to you. Go when you need advice or help with anything.
Undergraduate students are assigned a freshman faculty adviser before coming to Yale. Your freshman adviser will be a faculty member affiliated with your college who is there to review and approve your course schedule. You will see your freshman adviser at least three times, at an introductory dinner, and to approve your schedule each semester. For guidance in course selection, and more in-depth attention, your freshman counselor is the person to consult, and will direct you to the dean if necessary.
Here is a quick guide to the roles played by the undergraduate advisers at Yale:
Residential College Dean
Freshman Counselor (FROCOS)
Freshman Faculty Adviser
For graduate and professional students, your adviser not only helps guide you in choosing your courses, but also oversees your graduate work. If you are pursuing a Ph.D., he or she will supervise your research, serve on your various evaluation committees, and approve your dissertation topic.
Here is some helpful information and advice given by international graduate students at Yale:
Take your time. Your department will offer a ‘shopping period’, which can last up to two years, before you choose your adviser. This will vary depending on your school or department.
Make an informed decision. Talk with experienced students and observe classes. Get a sense of the working styles and personalities of the professors whom you are considering to be your adviser. As one student said, “It’s like a small marriage. You want to gather as much information as possible before your choose.”
Meet. Arrange a meeting with a prospective adviser. Prepare your ideas, and arrange a meeting to discuss your study plans with a prospective adviser. This will help you understand the viability of a possible long-term relationship.
Be flexible. Don’t discount the possibility of choosing an adviser who seems to have research interests that don’t match your own. It could still be a good fit. Professors (and especially senior faculty) have broad knowledge in their chosen field.
Take initiative. Your adviser is usually very busy, and will most likely not come to you to ask how you are doing. You should be proactive in your work, and take the opportunity to talk with your adviser whenever possible. He or she wants to help you with your academic problems. It is important to ask questions if you feel you need answers in order to proceed with your work.
Be independent. Don’t ask questions about everything. Work to answer what you can on your own, and make sure that when you do approach your adviser with questions, you have thought them out carefully. In developing a good relationship, it will take time to understand the exact balance between autonomy and dependence.
Be diligent. Don’t expect your adviser to remind you of deadlines for papers, exams or any aspect of your work. You are expected to take responsibility and ask questions if you are unclear about when something is due.
Be proactive. Be responsible for your own studies. “Self-activation” is the way one graduate student described it. In the U.S. there is an emphasis on thinking for oneself, not on memorizing facts. Show that you are thinking by not being afraid to argue or criticize (as long as you can justify your position with facts and reason).
Be prepared. Write out your ideas before meeting with your adviser. Make sure you can clearly explain your ideas. Be ready to justify and defend everything.
Be appropriate. A gift for your adviser is a warm gesture, and a nice symbol of appreciation. However, a gift does not mean special treatment. As informal as Americans can seem, it is said, “Never mix business with pleasure.” Giving gifts or becoming friendly with your adviser outside of an academic setting does not mean that you will be afforded any extra considerations.
Be professional. Your adviser may insist that you call him or her by their first name. This is not unusual in American culture and does not signify a close personal relationship. Even within a professional or academic setting the use of first names between subordinates and their superiors is normal. If you are uncertain as to whether or not to call your adviser by his or her first name, it is better to err on the side of formality and address your adviser as “Professor [insert last name]”, and only use first names when instructed to. You can also ask, “How do you prefer to be called?” if you are uncertain.
Maintain and build a good relationship with your work supervisor by setting an example of professionalism and communicating clearly and openly. Begin by understanding the norms and expectations of your lab or office. What are expected work hours? Are there any departmental meetings that you are required to attend? What protocols must one follow in the case of an unplanned absence or lateness?
Always ask if you are unclear about any of the policies and procedures. The work environment, and your supervisor may be very casual in dress or attitude, but this is in keeping with university culture. Be careful not to mistake the informality for a lack of respect or seriousness. U.S. culture is a more informal culture, but hierarchies still exist and are respected. Don’t assume a first name basis for example, or come to a meeting unprepared because it doesn’t seem serious. It is much better to be too formal, than too informal.
Graduate & Professional Student Resources
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