It might seem strange that a senior, well into her major by now, is writing about the advisor-choosing process. And it should, because that process took place quite a long time ago for me. However, I find myself frequently telling the story of how I chose my advisor freshman year, because it continues to amaze me how incredibly lucky I was.
On the first day of my second semester, I walked into a class for which I was not registered. I hesitantly walked up to the professor and simply said, “Hi, I’m Stevie. May I please add this class, and I know this probably seems strange, but will you be my advisor?” I had never met this professor, nor had I ever taken a class in the department in which I was declaring my major. I just had a feeling. In response, this professor—who didn’t know anything about me save my first name—said, “Sure!” I knew the second she walked into the room that this professor would be someone from whom I was going to learn a great deal, someone to whom I could go for advice, someone who would make a large impact on my Middlebury years. It turns out, I was right. Almost four years later, this professor continues to be my advisor, serves as my thesis advisor, and also teaches two of the classes in which I am currently enrolled.
When I was touring colleges, many students told me they had close relationships with their professors. Every time I heard this, I thought it sounded important and wonderful, but I couldn’t image that I would have the confidence to foster a strong relationship with a professor outside of the classroom. What I have found, however, is that becoming close to my advisor at Middlebury didn’t take effort or overwhelming confidence. Instead, it took a shared interest in her academic field and a desire to learn from each other.
In a good advisor, you find someone who is demanding of that which is difficult and is compassionate about that which is most difficult. Your advisor should be someone to whom you go for advice not only on academics, but really about anything. Being at Middlebury can sometimes come with its fair share of stresses, and your advisor is there to help you navigate the rougher waters. He or she knows you are capable of greatness, but also understands that you are human. An advisor’s ability to balance your perspectives can be a lifesaver.
When I look back on my Middlebury years, I know I will remember my teammates, my housemates, and my friends; I’ll remember that incredible class that changed my life and that class that seemed like it might destroy me. There will be books I cherish and lessons I’ll carry with me forever. And at the head of all of this will stand the incredible influence that has been my advisor.