Academic advising at St. Olaf College uses an intentional holistic student support approach, meaning that advisors focus on the whole student and work to establish meaningful relationships with the goal of teaching and learning. Central to this educational process is the collaboration between students and their advisors. Advising is individualized to address diverse student needs, and students discover how to direct their intellectual curiosity, overcome personal or academic barriers to learning, and to attain their goals.
The Center for Advising and Academic Support supports both advisors and their advisees by providing the necessary information to fulfill graduation, OLE Core (general education), and major requirements. We also assist students to explore possible major options, to change advisors, and to use a degree audit, class/lab schedule, and the St. Olaf Catalog.
Students generally will have at least two advisors during their time at St. Olaf—a College Advisor, typically for the first two years, and a Major Advisor. Every incoming St. Olaf student will be matched with a faculty or staff College Advisor during the summer. The College Advisor will be the first guide to a liberal arts education at St. Olaf. College. Advisors will discuss students’ interests and goals, and assist with course registration. They will introduce opportunities for international and off-campus study and experiential learning, as well as encourage the use of resources on campus to explore academic, career, and lifelong goals. Because the role of the College Advisor is to advise broadly, College Advisors will come from all areas of the college and typically are not in a department in which students are considering a major.
All new incoming students will meet with their College Advisor at the New Student Orientation Meet and Greet event on opening day. In addition, students will also meet individually with their advisor at a designated time later that week to review their course schedule and discuss the upcoming semester. Students will be required to meet at least once a semester with their College Advisor.
By March 15 of their sophomore year, students will declare a major. By the end of the sophomore year, students are expected to have a Major Advisor, a faculty member within a declared major. Students are generally more satisfied when they make an informed decision regarding their advisor than if the move is made for them by Advising. However, this change will be made by Advising if necessary. In certain circumstances, students will be given the opportunity to opt out of this reassignment to a Major Advisor. Although most students will no longer be formally assigned to their College Advisor, students are encouraged to remain in contact with their College Advisor as part of the network of relationships that students build while at St. Olaf. Major Advisors continue the work of the College Advisors while also assisting advisees in selecting courses in the major and introducing students to opportunities in their field of study. Students will be required to meet at least once a semester with their Major Advisor. Students who are planning more than one major, and/or a concentration, are advised to consult faculty in the areas in which they are not assigned an advisor. Similarly, students who are pursuing Pre-Professional Studies should work closely with pre-professional advisors.
General Information on Advising
After completing at least one semester, students may change to a different College Advisor or Major Advisor at any time during the academic year, with the permission of the new advisor via an electronic Request to Change Academic Advisor form, which can be found on the Student Information System (SIS). The Center for Advising and Academic Support and department chairs and program directors oversee the reassignment of advisees for faculty on sabbatical or other leaves. Generally, no individual advisor has more than 20 advisees in any given year.
The advice of advisors does not constitute a promise or a contract ensuring students graduate on schedule or complete specific requirements. Students and advisors must refer to the class and lab schedules to determine which courses fulfill specific graduation requirements. The responsibility for understanding and meeting degree requirements rests entirely with the student. Students have access to their academic records at any time on St. Olaf’s Student Information System (SIS). Students are encouraged review the goals of Advising as well as the Student's and Advisors' Roles and Responsibilities for Academic Advising in the Advising Syllabus to maximize their advising experience.
Other Academic Support
Class attendance is expected and usually required. Irregular class attendance becomes the concern of the college since absence from class represents an academic loss. Excessive or prolonged absences are reported by instructors to the Dean of Students Office.
Study Time and Study Habits
Many students need to adjust their time use habits on arrival at college. St. Olaf students are expected to devote a minimum of three hours of study outside of class for each hour in class. Making the best use of the limited time available usually requires using a good mix of daylight and evening hours for studying and avoiding study marathons. Successful study at St. Olaf usually includes reading ahead, attending class, using faculty office hours, studying for each class in frequent, short study sessions, attending help sessions, forming a study group, asking questions soon after they arise, and seeking help if the preceding efforts do not appear to be working.
Faculty Office Hours
Professors hold office hours for the classes they teach. Office hours are regular times set aside each week to talk with students from class, usually on a walk-in basis. Office hours provide an opportunity to ask questions about class topics, to extend the class discussion, or to get to know instructors better. St. Olaf faculty encourage students to avail themselves of this opportunity.
Many departments hold special help sessions or discussion groups for particular courses. These are usually listed on syllabi for those courses and are usually staffed with upperclass students who have been successful in the course. These sessions may offer an opportunity to get a second look at the class material, to rehearse the ideas and vocabulary, and to ask questions.
Most students find it helpful in at least some of their courses to form a study group of two to three interested classmates. Such groups often improve understanding of course material through discussing assignments, exploring course ideas further, brainstorming possible test questions for each other, or formulating questions to bring up in class.
Continuous Reporting System
Instructors are required to file a continuous reporting form that alerts the Dean of Students Office to students who are having difficulties in a course.