Keeping it real or bursting bubbles?

Sometimes students aim for goals and majors that seem highly improbable, and academic advisers may find it challenging to be the voice of reason– positive yet realistic– rather than be perceived as pessimistic and discouraging. How can advisers help students know themselves better and thoughtfully consider more plausible areas of study without stepping on their dreams? What should advisers keep in mind as they engage advisees in conversations about choices of majors and plans for the future?

What is your opinion?

Discuss This Article


  1. user gravatar
    Emily Rose

    I agree with Merrill; I think often students may not really understand what their chosen path or career entails. I have spoken with students ranging from high schoolers to master’s students who wanted to be either models or actresses or high school counselors. None of them had the background for it, or really understood the difficulty they personally would have in those fields.

    It is helpful to not immediately knock down these ideas, but rather to encourage them to look at the reality of the field, or major, or goal, and learn all they can about it. They need to be making informed decisions anyway, so this is a good idea for anyone. If we work with them to find information, and continue listening and asking questions, it is more likely that our students will see us as being on their team. If that’s the case, I believe they will be more likely to also listen to us when we challenge their ideas and help redirect them toward what may be better for them.

  2. user gravatar
    Merrill Landgrebe

    I think it is important for students to be able to describe the requirements of a position that interests them. So, if I have a student who loves to be outside, traveling and meeting with people who tells me he wants to be an accountant, I will ask him to describe what a day is like in the life of an accountant. What skills make an accountant successful? What does an accountant’s office typically look like? What activities do they do on a regular basis? If the student can describe this work environment, and seems excited about the possibility, I will ask him how he plans to balance his other interests with this lifestyle?

    I have had students come to me with grades that do not support successful completion of their degree requirements. In those cases, I challenge students to look at why they are struggling. Often, it is because the major they are in does not meet what they thought they would be doing. It could be as simple as a change of major. Some of my Management students were really better suited for Hospitality and Tourism Management. Once they changed, their grades improved and they went on to be very successful.

    Often, students just don’t know what options exist to them so they become frustrated with their academic pursuits. I feel that advisors need to encourage students to be knowledgeable of their options, understand that flexibility is often the key to success and that students need to align their interests with their major pursuits.

  3. user gravatar
    Reginald Nichols

    As an academic counselor, I always use my first key skill, “listening”. I believe it is important for our students to have high expectations and goals. My approach is to allow the student explore a few areas of interest by using personality and career tech tools.

    Using these tools can help students either reaffirm their set career interest and/or provide them with other career options they never considered. I believe self-discover is the best way for a student to determine if he or she is on the right path towards the best educational fit.

  4. user gravatar
    Jeremy Taulbee

    As a Pre-Health Advisor, I live with the reality of lofty expectations and reality checks on a weekly basis. There are no two Health School applicants who are alike and there is no one ‘magic bullet’ formula to guarantee your acceptance into a health program.
    I always encourage my students to pursue their dreams, but have a ‘parallel plan.’ The parallel plan is what they would do if their dreams of going to a professional health school doesn’t work out. Looking at the activities and academic coursework that the student enjoys the most and succeeds at the most, could help the student see where their interests lie, whether in healthcare or another field.
    I explain the expectations that a health school has of their applicants and then help the student to compare that with what they’ve already accomplished and what they plan to accomplish in their academics and extracurricular activities.
    We as advisors have to keep in mind that our student’s are capable of thinking critically and making decisions and judgments for themselves. We can show them the road they must travel in order to fulfill their dreams, but they are able to see whether it would be a smooth road, or a mountain to climb. I’m not in the business of bursting bubbles. In tough cases, I encourage the student to see the situation from the perspective of an admissions committee or in other cases, a potential employer. Looking at their qualifications from the outside, would they see themselves as a competitive applicant for health school? A good candidate for their dream job?


     ISSN: 1521-2211