Ask an Advisor: Academic Support and Course Enrollment

My student always did well in classes in high school but now is struggling. What’s going on, and what can I do to help?

Headshot of Africa Lozano.
Africa Lozano

Many factors can contribute to why a student’s GPA might drop from high school to college. College courses are challenging, there may be more distractions, and students are in charge of managing their schedules on their own.

If students are struggling academically, you can start supporting them by sharing the importance of connecting with resources (such as advisingtutoringmental health, or health support resources), because one resource could be a connection to another. Let students know it is okay to struggle academically and encourage them to take advantage of the resources campus provides, as well as allow advisors to guide them. Advisors are here to help students, connect them to resources, and guide them to their success.

For example, advisors often refer to me in my role as the director of academic support services with the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Educational Achievement. It is my job to make sure students who are part of the division are connected to tutoring support.

You can help your student thrive at UW–Madison by communicating the importance of connecting to resources, exploring options, and knowing the right tools to be successful.

— Africa Lozano, Director of Academic Support Services, Division of Diversity, Equity, and Educational Achievement

How can students choose classes if they don’t know what to major in? Will they be able to graduate in four years?

Headshot of Rebecca Bradbury
Rebecca Bradbury

It is normal for students to be uncertain about their major — in fact, each year, about 30 percent of first-year students are undeclared as they begin their fall term. (And yes, it is possible for students to graduate within four years, even if they take time to explore majors.)

Whether students have already narrowed down their options or if they’re not sure how to get started, they should meet with their academic advisor each semester to ensure they stay on track for a four-year graduation. Advisors can help them strategically choose courses to help explore majors and fulfill requirements.

If your student is uncertain of career interests or isn’t sure how to narrow them down, the Career Exploration Center is also great place to start!

— Rebecca Bradbury, Career Advisor, Career Exploration Center

What should students do if they are preparing for a limited-enrollment program and don’t know if they will get in?

(Note: A limited-enrollment program is a program, major, or school that has limited space available, and students apply to enroll in that program after one to two years of coursework prerequisites. Some examples include the School of Business, College of Engineering, and School of Nursing.)

Headshot of Hao Yuan
Hao Yuan

Proactive planning, creating a parallel plan, setting realistic expectations, and utilizing campus resources are crucial steps when considering any limited-enrollment program.

Students should research requirements and deadlines well ahead of time. One way to do that is to connect with advisors or administrative personnel that oversee admissions decisions for the program being considered (see School & College Advising Units for contact information).

I would also highly recommend meeting with advisors who can guide students on what to do in order to have the best chance of being accepted/admitted. Advisors can also assist students in creating a “parallel” or “backup” major plan. If students are not able to get into their first program choice, they will still be well prepared for their next steps and can make a smooth transition to their alternative plan.

Sometimes students have to choose between a competitive-enrollment program and a program they have already been accepted into (or feel they have a stronger likelihood of being accepted into). I strongly encourage students in this situation to consult with their advisor to fully understand the possible outcomes of each scenario.

— Hao Yuan, Academic Advisor, BBA Wisconsin School of Business