One of the unique aspects of attending a small, liberal arts college like Alma College are academic advisors.

Our advisors are members of the college faculty, which means there’s no one on campus better suited to help you navigate academic life at Alma College. But they don’t just help with classwork — advisors are trained to help with any and everything you encounter in your college career, from problems at home to figuring out your post-graduation plans.

Laura von Wallmenich is one of the most prolific advisors at Alma College. In addition to serving as an associate professor of English, she has advised hundreds of students from every major. She has seen students take advantage of this unique resource and really, really benefit from it. Here are a few ways in which you can do just that:

Broaden your skill set

One of the most obvious ways that academic advisors function is similar to your high school guidance counselor: they help you set your schedule and pick the classes you need in order to graduate with your chosen major. That’s a very important function! But if you look a little deeper, von Wallmenich says, you’ll have a leg up on your peers.

Instead of just asking your advisor for advice on which classes you should take, pick their brains on how to “broaden your skill set.”

For example, let’s say you’re a business major who plans to enter the finance industry after graduation. You’re probably great at quantitative reasoning, but you might struggle with writing and public speaking. Your advisor can not only help you get into a great writing class, but they can help you think about using that course to develop your natural writing ability.

Understand your requirements

Like every other college and university, Alma College has a set core curriculum — often thought of as “pre-requisite” or “pre-req” courses that students need in order to graduate. (Side note: Alma College has recently updated its core curriculum, in order to better-align with the needs of students!)

The trouble with any core curriculum, however, is that it can be challenging to see how your pre-req courses fit into your life. Academic advisors often hear from students who ask questions like, “I’m an art major. Why do I need to take a math class?”

Instead of asking that question, von Wallmenich suggests that you ask your advisor, “Why is this course required when I’m an art major?”

On the surface, you might not be interested in taking courses centered around topics like “Applying Scientific Thinking” or “Pursuing Justice, Equity and Inclusion.” But your advisor can help explain how these topics fit into the career path of any student. That’s why we made them requirements in the first place!

Discover your purpose

Academic advisors know very well that not every student has a career path set in stone. They have seen a lot of students who don’t know what they want to major in, as well as plenty of students who have changed their majors over time.

The truth is that every student comes to college with a purpose — and that purpose isn’t necessarily their chosen major. They may have come to college to play a sport, to participate in an extracurricular activity, or simply to take part in the atmosphere of college. That’s why it may be beneficial to simply ask your advisor, “What do I need to do in order to be successful?”

Your advisor is trained to help you discover your purpose, and if you’re unclear about what that purpose is, they have resources available to help you find it. They’re going to be by your side for your entire time in college, so be sure to use them for all you can!

For more information on academic advising and resources available to students, visit