At Illinois Wesleyan University, we have developed an academic advising program that takes into consideration the changing academic needs of students during their college years. A key component of this program involves assigning a faculty member as the First-Year Advisor to each freshman student. First-Year Advisors strive to promote the academic success of first-year students, facilitate their transition from high school to college, and assist with their integration into the broader Illinois Wesleyan community. Advisors counsel both broadly and developmentally while encouraging students to develop a cohesive academic plan with an eventual transition to a major advisor; help students to learn how to think strategically about their own academic progress; assist in the selection and registration of appropriate courses; and foster a respectful, supportive and trusting advisor-advisee relationship.
The First-Year Advising Program is linked to the Gateway Colloquium program. The Gateway courses are small classes of 15 students designed to engage the first-year student in college-level writing, intellectual inquiry, and public discourse in preparation for a successful career at the University. Students in each Gateway course typically have the same First-Year Advisor.
As they make the transition from high school to college, students will enroll in several general education courses, in addition to prerequisites for a major (if they have one in mind). The First-Year Advisor guides the student into these prerequisites, as well as appropriate general education coursework to help in the exploration of academic areas of interest. This early focus on the general education program helps the student at the outset develop skills and values fundamental to the liberal arts that will enhance later academic experiences.
Although some students may enter college with a major in mind, many students do not. Exploring areas of interest through the general education program helps undecided students make informed decisions concerning major programs. Students who have already decided on a major when they begin their studies at IWU may discover through academic exploration that there are academic disciplines that are more appropriate for their developing interests and goals. First-Year Advisors will help each student start to build an individualized academic plan, and make appropriate adjustments to this plan should a declaration of major or change of interest occur in the first year.