It’s time to introduce you to two very important parts of your collegiate experience: the university catalog and your advisor.

The university catalog is an indispensable resource for you as a student. It includes university polices and procedures, as well as full details on degree plans and what you need to do to graduate. Sure, it’s not the easiest read (and most student’s don’t read it at all) but an elective assignment you need to complete. After all, college is a substantial investment so you should read the instruction manual.

What is the best way to read the university catalog?

First, read the general sections including polices and general graduation requirements. Most colleges will have “core requirements” that all students need to complete to graduate in addition to a minimum number of hours needed to obtain your degree.

Second, move on to the specifics. If you know your major, read the sections pertaining to that degree program. You can also browse the sections for your specific school or college within the university (if it’s a larger institution).

My story is relevant here. When I was in college, I graduated with three degrees in three years. This would have never been possible unless I read the university catalog myself and used my advisor as just that- an advisor- not the exclusive source for all my knowledge. If you want to plan your own journey in college, you have to know the catalog. Take charge of your education!

Generally, you can find the university catalog on the university’s website. Sometimes, they are also printed and kept in advising centers or other parts of campus. Additionally, sometimes polices and procedures are printed outside of a university catalog. Consult with your university administrators for more information.

Why is it important to meet with my college advisor?

Let’s now talk about your advisor. Your advisor is a staff member assigned to you for the purpose of encouraging your timely progress toward a degree. As I’ve said before, don’t use your advisor as your only source of information. You need to be informed and knowledgeable. This being said, your advisor is your friend and can help you keep track of graduation requirements, make career plans, and plug you into necessary university resources. Indeed, many institutions require you to meet with advisors before registering for classes.

Sometimes, your advisor is a professor. Even though they might not be as approachable (or scheduling a meeting might seem scary), this is actually a tremendous benefit. Professors are uniquely situated to help you be successful both in and out of the classroom (i.e. getting a job when you’re done); this is why some colleges still use them in this capacity.

So here is the rule:  meet with your advisor shortly after arriving to campus. This will bolster your overall success on the college journey.

This blog post is part of a series on how to be successful in college.

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