At Brown, students design their own course of study to reflect their personal interests and goals. Our advising structures support students throughout this academic journey. Before arriving on campus, every student is assigned two advisors--an academic advisor and a student peer advisor--who help them navigate Brown's open curriculum. Students meet with their advisors at key times during each academic year to discuss their academic choices and to plan for subsequent terms.
Students may also seek advice from academic deans during drop-in open hours, sign up for a Faculty Advising Fellow meal of lively discussion between faculty and students, talk with the faculty of their courses, or reach out to an academic dean with knowledge about a specific topic.
Every first-year student is assigned two advising partners: an academic advisor who is a Brown faculty member or administrator, and a student peer advisor (also known as the Meiklejohn). Before the semester begins, new students meet with their academic and student peer advisors to discuss academic interests and select courses for the first semester. Scheduled meetings throughout the year help students build strong relationships with their advisors. Students' success in the first year depends on their active participation in the advising process. We encourage students to express their thoughts and preferences candidly, while remaining open to different points of view on their academic choices.
At minimum, a student is required to meet with their advisor once per semester in order to discuss their courses and plans, and to obtain a PIN to pre-register for the next term's classes. Of course, most students confer with their Advisors much more than the minimum, whether in person or by email or phone. Also, Meiklejohns often have informal get togethers to facilitate conversation and elicit questions. Academic Advisors and Meiklejohns work as a team for first-year advising.
Students who need help with their advising relationship should drop by the second floor of University Hall any weekday between 10am and 4pm to speak with an academic dean for assistance and to identify options.
First-year students' academic experiences are supported by a residential system that facilitates their transition to campus. Students live in communities of 40 to 80 first-year students, along with several peer counselors who offer on-the-ground information about everything from classes to campus resources to local bike paths.
Sophomores are encouraged to stay with their first-year advisors so that they can benefit from the continuity and depth of a two-year advising relationship, but some students choose a new advisor for their second year. Students who need help identifying an advisor should drop by the second floor of University Hall any weekday between 10am and 4pm to speak with an academic dean.
In the second year at Brown, students make key decisions about the focus of their studies. Specifically, they declare an area of concentration--or major--by the middle of the fourth semester. Check out Focal Point for information about all available concentrations, and what alumni have done with those concentrations. Sophomore advising meetings naturally include discussion about course selection in relation to possible concentrations. The process of declaring a concentration may begin as early as a student is ready to do so, but must be completed before pre-registration for the fifth semester's classes.
Students are also encouraged to expand their planning to include opportunities at and beyond Brown, such as study abroad in the junior year, summer internships, independent study classes, and independent research with faculty.
Because the sophomore year is a pivotal one, sophomores are required to meet with their advisors during pre-registration periods for their fourth and fifth semesters of study. Additional information on the Dean of the College website about sophomore advising and available advisors -- including the Guide to Your Sophomore Year -- may also be helpful.
In their third year, students become members of a social and academic community in their chosen concentration. Each student has an official concentration advisor from their department or program, typically the faculty with whom they met to file their concentration in the sophomore year.
Information about choosing and declaring a concentration is available on the Dean of the College site.
Advising conversations in the junior year focus on concentration objectives as well as experiences beyond the classroom that complement students' studies. Many juniors complete internships, international projects, and independent research. Juniors are also eligible to apply for nationally-competitive fellowships as well as a number of fellowship awards internal to Brown.
In addition to engaging in conversation about a course of study and intellectual development in the field, the concentration advisor is the one who may approve changes in a student's concentration plan.
Juniors are often pre-occupied with the question of what they will do after college. We hope that students have developed relationships with other faculty and advisors as well by this time; perhaps they have retained contact with their advisor from their first two years. Their advisors, other faculty, and the academic deans can be helpful sources of information on such questions. Students can also seek guidance from the advisors in our Center for Careers and Life After Brown (CareerLab), who can help students develop their own plan for exploring the professions.
Students retain their concentration advisor into their senior year. A student's last year at Brown should provide a meaningful culmination of their college education. Senior-year projects in the concentration (referred to as capstones) help students integrate, deepen, and apply their learning. These experiences are supervised by faculty and lead students toward the kind of intellectual engagement that faculty experience all the time.
As seniors look toward Commencement and the end of their college careers, they naturally turn reflective, asking themselves what their four years at Brown have wrought. What was the most meaningful experience they had with faculty? How did they experience community at Brown? What work was most challenging? Faculty advisors and deans can facilitate meaningful reflection on these and other questions. Family members, too, can provide helpful perspective and support.
This retrospective tendency is coupled with anticipation--perhaps anxiety--about the future. Applications and interviews for fellowships, graduate school, and professional positions can eat up valuable time and tempt students to give their studies short shrift. Advisors and family members can help students stay grounded by accompanying them on this part of their journey.
Additional information about academic advising is available on the Dean of the College website.