Have you ever traveled to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language? The entire experience can be disorienting. Figuring out how to navigate the environment, order food at a restaurant or even use an automated teller machine can be frustrating. For some students, going to college is equally foreign. 

Students coming to college directly from a high school setting that is mostly regimented, with fewer choices and a clear path to completion can be overwhelmed. Adult students also face challenges as they have been out of school for some time and are not used to juggling classwork, homework, and family and work obligations. The freedom of college is liberating for many new students, but without expert guidance and good advice, this freedom can lead students to make choices that can delay their chances of earning a college degree, as well as possibly wasting thousands of dollars on unnecessary coursework.

Every college has its own deadlines, paperwork and forms, academic majors, degree and certificate options, and a whole host of other decisions for students to consider. Terry O’Banion, president emeritus of the League for Innovation in the College, highlighted the critical nature of academic advising in a recent article in the Community College Journal. “Academic advising is the second-most important function in the community college,” he wrote. “If it is not conducted with the utmost efficiency and effectiveness, the most important function — instruction — will fail to ensure that students navigate the curriculum to completion.”

Community college students can face a particularly broad array of choices in their educational journey. At Waubonsee Community College, our Counseling Department works to provide students with the resources, advice and counseling they need to find their path and stay on it. We have more programs to help students choose the right major for their interests and aptitude earlier in their college experience. Research shows this significantly increases the likelihood of degree completion and reduces time spent on unnecessary classes. For students planning to pursue a bachelor’s degree, learning the transfer process can be much easier with the expert counsel of an academic advisor. Counselors can also be there when students need personal counseling during stressful or difficult times. This invaluable resource has helped many students complete a successful academic career. Finally, career counseling and exploration are other important services students receive, making the transition from the college world to the work world a smooth one.

Just like international travel, once you learn the ropes, the college experience comes into focus and you wonder why you were ever intimidated or confused. College counselors and academic advisors, as well as other student services staff and faculty mentors, act as the best guides to a successful college outcome. When traveling, it’s always prudent to consult a map to make sure you reach your destination. It’s no different in college. Taking advantage of the counseling and advising services available at Waubonsee and other colleges is a smart decision.