Care and Feeding of Your Faculty Adviser

Tags: AB academics advising BSE courses curriculum

At Princeton, you’ll be faced with a dizzying array of choices, about everything from when to wake up, what to eat, which classes to take, what to major in. During your first year (or two, if you’re an A.B. student), your primary source of guidance for academic choices you’ll be making is your faculty adviser. If you’re an A.B. student, your director of studies will select a faculty adviser for you who is associated with your college; if you’re a B.S.E. student, your faculty adviser will be assigned by Dean Bogucki. Faculty advisers are great resources, if you know how to make the most of your relationship with them!

Your faculty adviser will not:

  • Be able to rate every course in the curriculum
  • Tell you which courses to take (Remember, they advise; they don’t call the shots. You do.)
  • Know all of the answers to your questions (though they will usually know where to find the answer)
  • Meet with you on a moment’s notice (it’s good to give them some lead time)
  • Respond to email at all hours of the day and night (faculty are people too, and require sleep!)

Your faculty adviser will:

  • Have access to your placement information and be able to suggest appropriate courses
  • Help you think through your short-term and long-term academic goals
  • Be a sounding board for your ideas
  • Connect you with resources around campus, working closely with your Director of Studies
  • Be broadly familiar with the curriculum and know the distribution requirements
  • Be accessible during office hours and via email, when you make appointments
  • Take an interest in you, if you let her/him!

You should:

  • Schedule and keep appointments.  Not just for course selection, but at other times, too. Your adviser will give the best advice if she/he knows you. Set this goal for yourself: ask your adviser to lunch or dinner in the dining hall once a month! (That feeding of your adviser part? Absolutely serious.)
  • Come prepared. Gather a list of your questions, or things you’d like to talk about. Include on that list some things that will help you get to know them!
  • Help your adviser get to know you. Be honest. Reflect on your interests, experiences, and goals. Share your concerns and hopes. Tell your adviser about any academic experience that have been important to you. If you don’t tell them what you’re thinking, they can’t be as helpful!
  • Be professional in your interactions with your adviser. Think of this as practice for every other intellectual relationship you will develop throughout your time at Princeton (e.g. use capital letters and punctuation in email, don’t address them as “Hey,” etc.)

One of the best things about Princeton is our faculty advising system, but to get the most out of the relationship, you should be prepared to take responsibility, too! If you put in some time and effort, you’ll find that you may gain not just an adviser, but a mentor and friend.

Professor Valenzuela advising a student


Author Profile

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Justine H. Levine
Director of Studies, Rockefeller College

As Director of Studies at Rockefeller College, I work closely with first years and sophomores, overseeing their academic progress and advising. Before joining the staff at Rocky, I was a fellowship adviser here at Princeton, and before that, I founded and directed the undergraduate research program at Rutgers, where I also worked for eight years as Assistant Dean for Sophomores and Associate Director of the Honors Program. I grew up in New Jersey, attended UCLA for my Masters’ in English Literature (where I studied the literature of marginalized groups in the U.S.), and returned to the Garden State for my doctoral degree in the Sociology and Philosophy of Education (Ed.D.), and I love thinking about higher education through a philosophical lens. I live in Hopewell with my husband and two young children, whom you may meet on campus. Though my work and family keep me busy, I can also be found out for a run, stealing a quiet moment in a yoga class, or trolling local farmer’s markets for seasonal produce.

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