As the round of second semester finals seemingly springs out of nowhere every year, students across campus can finally tick off another completed term here at McGill. With age comes wisdom, and students seem to rely on McGill resources less and less as they grow more familiar with the school. We come in as first years, completely taken aback by the breadth of campus, the city, and the diversity; and maybe our natural instinct at that point is to seek help. But then, we begin to settle into the comfort of knowing the difference between Trottier and Ferrier, between McConnell, the residence hall and McConnell, the engineering building, and most importantly, between physically going to class, and watching the lecture recordings at home in sweatpants.
“When you come to university, experiencing new things can be uncomfortable,” says Ben Fung, U1 Arts and Science. “At first, you’ll spend more time with your advisor because you’re trying to decide what you’re going to be majoring in, and what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life. Once you’ve more or less decided on those two things, you’d be less likely to visit your advisor.”
As a first-year, one of the best resources is the First Year Office. Before even stepping foot on campus, they offer information about what to expect when starting at McGill, as well as organizing the Student Life Ambassador Program, which pairs upper year students with first years in order to answer any questions that might come up throughout a First-year’s experience here. The First Year Office’s website also provides information regarding course registration to health insurance to lockers around campus and everything in between. You’re onl a first year for another month or so, so get on it.
Faculty vs. school vs. departmental advising
But what if you’re not a first-year? A good starting point is to understand the distinction between your faculty academic advisor and your departmental advisor, and potentially even your school advisor, if your field of study has one. A departmental advisor might have more information regarding your major. For students in architecture, computer science, and nursing, it might be a good idea to seek the respective school advisor for specialized guidance that others might not have as strong a grasp on. An academic advisor, however, is a great person to talk to if you have any questions about your overall curriculum, integrating a minor, or future career goals with respect to your studies here at McGill.
What the future holds
The future can be terrifying to think about. With the job market as bleak as ever, students across Canada are graduating from universities and entering the work force with genuine trepidation. So what exactly can a career advisor provide that is unique to the CaPS office?
“Think of an academic advisor as an expert on what courses a student needs to complete to fulfill their degree requirement, and [the help] a student needs to build a solid foundation for their academic career,” says Catherine Stace, Arts career adviser at CaPS. “A career advisor has a different focus. Our vision is that all students become fully engaged in career exploration and CaPS uses the basis of career education to provide students with lifelong tools for career management.”
Beyond advising, CaPS also offers countless other resources to the student population. For instance, the McGill Mentor Program pairs students up with McGill alumni in order to further aid in the student’s career exploration. By communicating with alumni, students are able to discuss career options with a professional in their field of interest—an opportunity available to undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students alike.
Another CaPS program, the Program for the Advancement of Career Exploration (PACE), was created to help students make decisions about their careers through a series of four workshops designed to administer self-assessments and vocational testing.
Undoubtedly, McGill students have high hopes for their futures, but they are just as likely to be nervous about the uncertainty that might lie before them. We often look to our peers for advice and tips, but it is important to keep in mind that approaching one of McGill’s many advisors can be beneficial. While some are cynical about McGill’s advising resources, you owe it to yourself to expore all of your options. After all, it doesn’t hurt to ask.