Each new freshman and transfer student is assigned a Pre-Major Advisor (PMA), a Stanford faculty or staff member who volunteers to advise up to six incoming students from the time they arrive at Stanford until they declare their major.
What do Pre-Major Advisors do?
Pre-Major Advisors (PMAs) support students as they imagine opportunities and develop strategies for making thoughtful choices about their academic career as it relates to their goals and values. PMAs connect students with the Stanford community, helping them build the relationships that are a valuable part of the Stanford experience. In short, their role is to inspire our students to embrace their Stanford journey with the full depth of their curiosity.
PMAs are required to meet with their students individually and as a group during New Student Orientation (NSO) and they are expected to meet with their students at least once per quarter until the student declares a major. Additionally, there is a hold placed on all pre-major students’ accounts in Axess that prevents them from enrolling in courses until they have met with their PMA. The purpose of this hold, and these required meetings, is to ensure that all undeclared students receive the benefit of advice and guidance on a continual basis. It is the PMA who does the quarterly lift of this hold in Axess.
Do Pre-Major Advisors need special across-the-board expertise?
No. Although PMAs are encouraged to engage a student across his or her full range of interests, they are not required to know the specifics of majors that lie well outside of their own expertise. What this means is that while a PMA is unlikely to tell students what classes to take, she/he may be an excellent sounding board who can offer support and guidance as students reflect on their goals, weigh their options, identify resources, and make their own decisions.
WHO CAN BE A PRE-MAJOR ADVISOR?
Pre-Major Advisors must be employees of Stanford University. Ideal prospects should be interested, engaged listeners who value building connections throughout the university. Colleagues possessing the qualities of patience, gentle candor, reliability, and good-humor are most especially sought. Currently, the program is in particular need of Pre-Major Advisors who have a connection to undergraduate life, an ability to spend time with students, and who are enthusiastic about working with pre-declared, first-year students.
Who helps and supports the Pre-Major Advisors?
Every Pre-Major Advisor is helped and supported by an Academic Advising Director.
Each undergraduate residence has an Academic Advising Director (AAD): a full-time, Ph.D-level professional academic advisor within Undergraduate Advising and Research (UAR) who may also teach on campus. The AAD has an office in the residences and follows the academic progress of approximately 350 freshmen and sophomores living in a defined set of residential dorms and houses. AADs can advise on Stanford’s undergraduate curriculum, research and public service opportunities, academic rules and regulations, and other campus resources.
PMAs are associated with a residence in the sense that all of a PMA’s advisees live in the same residence and each PMA is partnered with a single AAD. That partnering AAD matches each PMA assigned to his/her residence with a cohort of advisees, is available to answer questions, troubleshoot problems, provide support or references to available resources, or to intercede if an advising situation warrants.
What kinds of resources are available, to help and support the Pre-Major Advisor?
Each and every Pre-Major Advisor is supported by:
- An Academic Advising Director and, if advising student-athletes, an Academic Advisor for Student Athletes
- A weekly email newsletter, delivered fresh each Monday morning. The newsletter contains useful information about upcoming academic deadlines and organized, timely information about academic programming, opportunities, grants and fellowships, information sessions, departmental events, research, internships, etc. The AAD distributes a version of this newsletter to PMAs as well, and this weekly correspondence facilitates regular communication between the PMA and his/her AAD partner.
- An Orientation and Training session offered each summer, on two alternate dates for convenient scheduling.
- The Pre-Major Advising Handbook, in hard copy and online
- The Pre-Major Advising Website
- Optional workshops throughout the year
- Optional lunches with the Academic Advising Director and/or AARC Advisor to share and discuss experiences and practice, and develop connections with other Pre-Major Advisors throughout the University.
- Opportunities to gather with other PMAs for peer-to-peer learning of best practices
- Undergraduate Advising and Research (UAR) sponsors annual Faculty Club lunches for each cohort, and will put six residential dining hall meals (per quarter!) on each PMAs Stanford ID, to facilitate meeting with your students, AAD, or fellow PMAs in the residential space.
Why should I consider being a Pre-Major Advisor?
Pre-Major Advisors play a critical role in the undergraduate educational experience, by mentoring students from the time they arrive on campus as freshmen until they declare a major at the end of their sophomore year. There have been several changes to the Pre-Major Advising program within the last few years designed to make it more effective for our students…and more rewarding for their Pre-Major Advisors:
- Small advising cohorts: Each Pre-Major Advisor is assigned a group of no more than six advisees.
- Supportive advising partnerships: Each Pre-Major Advisor works directly with a single Academic Advising Director who is there to help and support you. You will receive regular outreach from your Academic Advising Director, keeping you aware of the University deadlines, requirements, and opportunities your advisees encounter throughout the school year.
- Thoughtful matches: Your Academic Advising Director will try to match you with advisees who broadly share your interests and/or stated advising preferences.
- Regularly scheduled meetings: Pre-major students have an “Advisor Hold” that requires them to meet with their Pre-Major Advisor at least once each quarter. The institution of this hold has been very popular with current Pre-Major Advisors, who are finding that they know their students much better and can provide more value to them as a result.
Partnering with the Academic Advising Director
Because it is critical that students have guidance from the very start, Undergraduate Advising and Research (UAR) assigns two advisors to each student upon matriculation—the Pre-Major Advisor (PMA) and the Academic Advising Director (AAD). These assignments are based on the student’s housing assignment.
Each undergraduate residence has an Academic Advising Director (AAD): a full-time, Ph.D-level academic advisor who may also teach on campus. The AAD has an office in the residences, and on average, follows the academic progress of approximately 350 freshmen and sophomores living in a defined set of residential dorms and houses. AADs can advise on Stanford’s undergraduate curriculum, research and public service opportunities, academic rules and regulations, and other campus resources. PMAs are associated with a residence in the sense thatall of a PMA’s advisees live in the same residence and each PMA is partnered with a single AAD.
Each week, the AAD sends a weekly UAR Advising Newsletter to the students in his/her residence complex. It contains useful information about upcoming academic deadlines and related policies and procedures that you may find helpful. It also contains organized, timely information about academic programming, opportunities, grants and fellowships, information sessions, departmental events, research, internships, etc. The AD distributes this newsletter to PMAs as well, and this weekly correspondence facilitates regular communication between the PMA and his/her AAD partner.
Partnering with the Academic Advisor for Student-Athletes
In addition to the Academic Advising Directors who are assigned to students based on their housing assignment, student-athletes will have an Academic Advisor for Student-Athletes, based in the Athletic Academic Resource Center, or AARC. Student-athletes form a distinct group that spans all residences and that shares unique advising needs, including balancing their academic and athletic commitments as well as remaining NCAA eligible.
PMAs are encouraged to reach out to their advising partners with any questions or concerns about their students or their advising practice, or with any suggestions or ideas they may have either by replying to the weekly email or by contacting the AAD or AARC advisor directly.
I hope you will take advantage of the Pre-Major Advising program by joining us. It is a rewarding, and sometimes incredibly inspiring, way to serve the University and our students.