A Family Guide to Advising
We welcome you and your student to Stephen F. Austin State University! This guide is intended to serve as a resource to family members of students attending SFA. While it will not answer all the specific questions you may have about your student's situation, we hope to provide helpful information and provide you with an understanding of our advising processes.
Your student is beginning college which is a transition for both parents and students. As a parent, you have seen your son or daughter every day; you know their teachers, their friends, where they are going and when they come home. You have seen their grades each marking period; you know their class schedule; you feel comfortable going to their school. A new chapter begins when your son or daughter comes to college. For many, this means moving out of the house (they'll come back…with lots of laundry!) and out of daily contact. For those who are commuting to classes from home, there is still a change. College classes generally don't meet every day; students could have classes just 3 or 4 days a week; they could be in class until 10:00pm.
In addition, there are federal regulations concerning the information parents are entitled to once a student turns 18 years of age…even if you are paying the tuition. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA; also known as the Buckley Amendment) is a federal law that protects the privacy of a student's education records once they are 18 years old. For example, students are the only ones who can request a transcript of their grades. Students must give written permission for their grades to be shared with anyone else (including parents). It's important to have a conversation with your student about his/her academic records. Forms are available at the Registrar's Office in Rusk Building or online at http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/index.html. Personnel here at the college have access to grades because of the need to see the students' progress as we advise them.
Advising System at SFA
The Office of the Dean and individual academic departments oversee the curricular programs of students who pursue any of the courses of study offered within the College.
Students who have declared a major in the College and have earned fewer than 45 semester credit hours should contact the Liberal and Applied Arts Academic and Career Advising Office (ACAO) in Ferguson 290. (Exceptions: Students who major in Creative Writing, Geography, History, Liberal Studies, Radio-TV, Social Work, Sociology, Spanish or French, will see an advisor in the Department of their major.) Students who have not yet declared a major are advised in the Academic Advising Center, located on the second floor of the Ralph W. Steen Library, Room 203.
Students with 45 hours or more work with faculty advisors in the academic departments to develop specific degree plans; those working toward degrees in Applied Arts and Sciences, Liberal Studies, or other interdisciplinary programs are assigned an advisor by the Dean. Many departments in the College have specific advising schedules. Students should contact the department that houses their particular degree program for advising information.
Speaking of advising… what can you expect of SFA's advising system? Advising usually consists of:
- Discussing what classes need to be taken each semester.
- Helping students acclimate to college life.
- Helping students formulate academic goals and develop their personal potential.
- Assisting students in making responsible decisions consistent with interests, goals, abilities, and degree requirements.
- Connecting students with campus and community resources.
Academic Policies and Support
The SFA General Bulletin contains a vast amount of information, including the requirements for the various degree programs SFA offers, descriptions of the courses listed by department and the academic policies we all follow. SFA General Bulletins can be found at www.sfasu.edu/73.asp.
Students at SFA are expected to maintain a cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of 2.0 to be in good academic standing. The first semester a student's cumulative GPA falls below a 2.00, the student is placed on academic probation. If a student's cumulative GPA remains below a 2.00 for two consecutive semesters, the student is placed on academic suspension.
Advisors in ACAO strongly encourage students having academic difficulty to seek assistance. Advisors can strategize and recommend resources for students who are experiencing academic difficulty.
Many students at SFA take courses at other colleges and transfer those credits to Stephen F. Austin State University. The Admissions Office (Rusk Building Room 206) can help students determine how credits taken at other schools will work into their SFA program. A good place to begin is the Course Equivalency Guide: http://apache.sfasu.edu/sfa_forms/course_eq.shtml
For more information on these and other policies, visit the SFA General Bulletin at www.sfasu.edu/73.asp.
The Role of a Parent in Advising
College is a time for students to make decisions on their own, to learn about resources and options. As advisors we do not make decisions for them; we provide information so that students can make their own informed decisions.
As parents, it is difficult to let go and let grow. We all want to prepare students for a lifetime of success. The ACAO staff encourages you to support your son/daughter by empowering them to seek assistance when they need it. It is far more useful for students to talk with an advisor than for parents to talk for them. The advisor should be the first person a student turns to when there is an academic issue. It is appropriate for you to refer your son/daughter to his/her advisor or to the Academic & Career Advising Office.
Listed below are various web resources you and your student may find helpful. The web page for ACAO is a great place to start exploring the various resources SFA offers in academic and career planning.
- Academic & Career Advising Office
- Schedule of Classes
- SFASU General Bulletin
- Registrar's Office
- Resources for Future Students