COMMENTARY: If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there

Dick Taylor

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The first thing the student must really think about and crystallize in their own mind before they sit down with their advisor is: What will a successful college experience look like? What is their Everest they’re climbing, and how will they know when they reach the summit.

My background is in running radio stations. Radio stations only make money one way and that is through the selling of advertising. As a result, I’ve dealt with countless business owners over the years advising them on their advertising. The first question I ask them is “How will you measure success?” You might be surprised to learn that most have never really thought about the answer to that simple question. 

In my short time at WKU I’ve already seen that a lot of students cannot answer that question regarding their education. Oh, they say things like “to get a college degree” or “to make a lot of money” or “because my parents want me to have a college education.” Well, those kinds of answers are not a plan for success in life.

As a professor, I love a student that is focused on a life goal like a laser beam. Whether in the classroom or in my office advising, the advice provided is to very specific questions, challenges and goals. This type of student’s questions center on making sure the path they’re on is correct and will allow them to complete their education expeditiously.

Advisors are not in a position to tell a student what they should do with their life anymore than an advertising sales person can tell a business owner how they should measure success. The answers to these questions are very personal and what’s right for me is very likely not the prescription that will be right for you.

Before scheduling their appointment, the student needs to have reviewed their course catalog and semester course bulletins. They need to come prepared for the advisement session with their pre-qualified questions and concerns, having reviewed their iCAP report and having their list of proposed courses and times printed out to review. Engagement by the student means knowing their academic requirements for continued enrollment and graduation. 

In helping the student to critically think through their life until this point in time, an advisor can help the student do a self checkup on their educational strategic plan. Asking questions about what the student has shared, talking things through out loud, will help both the advisor and the student clarify the present and future course.

When the work you do is what you love, can you call it work? I think one of things that need to be checked during an advising session is, is the student still on the path they are passionate about? The student picks the education and career path and we are here to assist them move along that path to their goal, but the student remains accountable for the outcomes of the path they choose.

People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. I learned this lesson both as an advertising and marketing salesperson as well as a manager of people. Likewise advisors must first develop a sense of trust in the student by showing that they genuinely care about the student’s learning and life goals.  Enthusiasm about learning is contagious and any student that comes to my office will find that I’m surrounded by books, periodicals and printouts of Internet stories related to my field of broadcast sales and management. What they will quickly observe is that education and learning is a life-long process. Obtaining a college degree(s) is not the finish line, but merely footnote on your personal journey of success. Knowledge is power and leaders are readers. When students are exposed to that kind of positive environment, they will begin to adopt those same kinds of interests and habits.