Academic advisors are very different from umbrellas. One is typically the employee of a college or university, and can help you make decisions that affect your professional future. The other is an umbrella.

Still, umbrellas and most academic advisors have one thing in common: We forget they exist until we need them.

No matter how amazing an umbrella might be, you likely keep yours stashed away in a closet or a trunk — until it rains. When it rains, you reconcile with your umbrella in an attempt to stay dry.

Similarly, most students tend to forget about their academic advisor until it’s time to register for classes. While all students — in-person or remote — typically have access to an academic advisor, far fewer will take advantage of the resources their advisor offers.

Academic advisors serve as a go-to resource for so many things a student might need: Career guidance, professional mentorship, study outlines, even connections to obtain scholarships or financial aid that makes education even more affordable.

So, what makes a good academic advisor?

We’re so glad you asked.

Not all academic advisors are created equal. You’re looking for an academic advisor who can provide clarity and critical guidance, helping you navigate a sea of possible course and career opportunities to find the ones that vibe with your goals. A quality academic advisor provides peace of mind when you need it, as an advocate in your corner who helps you steer toward the future you deserve.

We typically emphasize a few qualities when speaking to students about finding a great academic advisor. We’ve included what we believe are the 7 most important things to look for in an academic advisor below.

You can thank us later.

1. Positivity

You’ll begin your college career with a few challenges ahead of you. Look for an academic advisor who is eager to help you scale any hurdle you’ll face in the months to come.

Coursework, class schedules and other educational requirements can sometimes make education feel more like a job and less like a privilege. In those moments, an energetic academic advisor can make all the difference.

Find an academic advisor who celebrates your victories with you. If you don’t reach your goals, a positive-minded academic advisor can also help you see the success behind the setback.

A willing, eager academic advisor can make all the difference in all stages of your educational experience.

2. A genuine desire to help

A good advisor lives to see students succeed. They look for the best ways to reach and help each student, through a combination of encouragement, guidance and support.

The best academic advisors are also sensitive to your particular needs. They ask questions that promote a comfortable conversation, and work to create a non-judgemental environment.

3. Openness to your opinion

Academic advisors exist to provide guidance. Their role is not to force you into a particular course or career path. If you find yourself struggling against an academic advisor’s goals for your future, it’s time to find another mentor.

A good academic advisor is happy to serve students, and works hard to preserve your passions. Even more important than their experience, a quality academic advisor prioritizes your dreams. They help you identify your goals, and work out a path to help you achieve them.

4. Expertise in your field

A good advisor does their research before you ever walk in the door. Often, you’re paired with an academic advisor already skilled in your field of interest. This way, your advisor can provide relevant suggestions that help you decide on your instructors, coursework and academic calendar.

The best advisors know where to find answers, even if they don’t have them. They work hard to remain familiar with any updated course details.

5. Dynamic communication skills

Academic advisors serve so many roles. They provide inspiration, insight and encouragement to students at various stages of their academic journeys. And between meetings with students, they work hard to stay informed on any new projects, classes, instructors or programs that students might be interested in.

To fulfill all of these responsibilities on a daily basis, the best academic advisors rely on off-the-charts communication skills.

A good advisor will listen well before speaking, and rarely leads with his or her own thoughts. Instead, they’ll work to develop a deep understanding of your goals, doubts and aspirations, through careful listening and honest questions.

6. Detail-oriented organization

To maximize the value of your time, the best academic advisors deeply value organization. They rely on calendars, communication tools, project management platforms and other resources to stay on top of their responsibilities. Look for an academic advisor who maintains a keen attention to all details.

7. Goal-oriented approach

As a student, you’re working toward goals from the moment you begin your education. Your largest goal is likely graduation — the moment when you transition from a self-paced bootcamp, or a traditional college path, to a rewarding, full-time career.

During your educational journey, you’ll need an advisor who truly understands the small steps and processes that help you reach and exceed your goals. While instructors and fellow students can sometimes provide this mentorship, there’s no replacement for a full-time academic advisor working hard on your behalf.

It’s your academic advisor’s job to keep you focused on your short and long-term goals. They should challenge you toward success and direct you toward the right tools to make it happen.

There’s one more characteristic that separates the greatest academic advisors from the rest: They should remember you. You can always tell an overworked academic advisor from a genuinely interested one, simply by how well they can remember your personal details.

We understand a thing or two about quality academic advisors at Pace. When you run into roadblocks, you deserve an academic advisor in your corner. We offer full courses that can help level up your career in record time, with the full support of a real-life academic advisor along the way.

Talk to a PACE advisor — whether you have questions or you're ready to enroll — and start setting academic goals today.