In high school, it was the principal’s office. In college, it’s academic advising.

Most of the time, you go on your own volition, but it usually compares to the bar, student union and yes, even the library. Your college advising visit doesn’t need to generate a migraine, though. If you follow the tips below, your trip to your adviser can be not only tolerable, but productive.

Related4 Skills for Surviving Freshman Year

Plan Your Visit Ahead

If there’s any way you can help it, the sweet spot for an academic advising appointment is in the middle of your semester (or quarter or trimester). Your mileage may vary depending on your school’s individual schedule, but it’s a near certainty that advising will be packed near the beginning of the semester due to class registration and the add/drop period. The end of the semester is also a bad idea, due to students trying to fulfill graduation requirements.

Last time I went to advising, I thought I’d get a break on everyone else by arriving on the Friday before the add/drop period of our spring semester. Most students hadn’t moved back in from winter break and I was greeted with a sweet two-hour wait for advising. Plan as far ahead as possible.

Stay Calm

The craziest things I’ve seen in an academic advising office come from frantic students. I understand that advising can be worrisome — last time I went my degree audit said I was supposed to graduate a full year early — but going into the office, I stayed as calm and collected as possible.

Why not show my emotions on my sleeve? I felt like the adviser would be the most honest and accomodating of me if I acted mature, and guess what? I was absolutely right. Students who entered the office lobby visibly upset at the wait time or near tears due to a bad grade in a class often didn’t get the results they wanted to hear.

Be Prepared

You’re not going to know everything walking into advising. The more you’ve researched into your individual issue, though, the better. It can be the difference between receiving the advice you need that day and doing what you need to act upon that advice.

When I had my “graduation scare” (as a senior, it’s a different type of graduation scare), I didn’t know many of the options I could take. But I did all the research on my academic record and provided my assigned adviser with that information, which was able to help her provide me with the customized plan I needed.

Don’t doubt the value of a few hours of good research.

RelatedInfographic — Do College Freshmen Feel Academically Prepared for Classes?

Don’t Bring Your Parents or Books

This should go without speaking, but when I was in advising last time, freshmen who had just moved in had gone straight to the advising office.

Stop! You’ve got four years to enjoy college and if your parents are in town, there’s much more you can do to enjoy your send-off than sit and wait in an adviser’s office. And although textbooks are a contentious topic in college education, your adviser doesn’t need to see them — at all.

Make Their Job Easier

Think back to moving into your first collegiate residence. It likely involved a lot of boxes, possibly some help from the parents, and a lot of stress.

Now imagine that daily if you’re an academic adviser. Now, granted, they receive compensation and you just got a key, but it’s not the easiest job in the world working with students — some of whom are trying to game you for eight hours a day, five (or more!) days a week.

Showing up with a smile and as much information as possible will make your interaction that much more intuitive, and your advising appointment can be a net benefit for the both of you.

Don’t stress; academic advising is just as much a part of college as midterms, all-nighters, and keg stands, but following these tips can make the whole experience suck just a little less.

Related: 3 Things Freshmen Need to Know Before School Starts


Image: Jeremy Wilburn