Tips for BME: Academic Advising

It’s that time of the year again, as the semester winds to a close, Phase I registration ends, and you frantically try to calculate the lowest grade you can get on your final to cinch that A on your transcript. At a school like Georgia Tech, it’s easy to feel you’re punching above your weight. Classes are tough, and only get tougher, and everyone around you is scrambling for that internship or lab position. However, for a population of students used to being at the top of the class and the ones asked for help, it can be hard to be the one asking for advice instead.

But at Georgia Tech’s BME Academic Advising Department, advisors Dr. Kim Paige and Paul Fincannon want to emphasize that academic advising isn’t just for those struggling in coursework, but for all students. As Dr. Paige states, “academic advising should not be a one-time hit or miss type of service that students use throughout their academic years in college; it should be a tool and resource that students value, understand, and engage in to help with future goals.”

Whether it’s your first or your fiftieth time in the Academic Advising office, it can seem daunting to meet with the advisors. Often, there seems to be a stigma associated with academic advising that one only gets help when they struggle with courses or need to withdraw from a course. To many students, they have never felt the need to ask for help in their schedules or in their lives, academic or otherwise, and may be more reluctant to seek help. However, Mr. Fincannon emphasizes that students should not shy away from counsel. “Usually when we get somebody come in here who probably needs this, usually they’ll come back, because they realise it’s not a scary thing,” Mr. Fincannon said. The guidance provided isn’t just for those struggling in class, or for those worried about their academic careers; it’s for anyone who just wants someone to talk to.

To Dr. Paige, academic advising is critical for providing direction not just for academic and professional goals, but for personal ones as well, and Mr Fincannon concurs; as he states, “we’d like for them to think that we are always here for them for anything.” In the BME department, academic advisors are there for a reason; when you walk into their offices, you get the sense that they are truly invested in their students’ college careers. As Dr. Paige states, “I grew to love academic advising because I get to build relationships with students and see how students grow and develop throughout [their] college experiences.”

“Usually when we get somebody come in here who probably needs this, usually they’ll come back, because they realise it’s not a scary thing,” Mr. Fincannon said.

Academic advising is clearly important for students to take advantage of; however, it isn’t something that can be benefited from fully in a single session. Many carry the idea that academic advising is more of a one-time deal; a session or two to sort out scheduling problems, or difficulties in classes. However, Dr. Paige believes that in such a short time frame, it’s difficult for the source of a student’s issues to be parsed out, that “these developmental moments can often seem detoured or like our work is patch-work.” Oftentimes, she states that “the most challenging aspect of my job is time… I often wish I and the advising team had more time to focus and do more developmental advising – really dig into advising issues that our students experience.” Instead, she believes that getting counsel from their advisors is a process, even for academic advising veterans. Rather than just something to be ticked off of a checklist, Dr. Paige wants academic advising to be seen more as a “two-way communication that should be multifaceted and ongoing while the student is in an academic-college environment.”

For many, academic advising can seem like an afterthought, something you know you should go to, but you never seem to get there. But Dr. Paige and Mr. Fincannon believe that advising is something that everyone needs to make the best of your next four (or five) years here. Next time you have a free hour in your schedule, maybe stop by the BME academic advising offices. You won’t regret it.