Assisting students changing majors or supporting those who need assistance when not accepted into their desired major is at the core of transitional advising at Virginia Tech.

This advising service gives current Virginia Tech students the opportunity to work one-on-one with an academic advisor through the exploration, planning, and implementation process of choosing a major.

“Transitional advising allowed me to consider and explore a major switch from business to HNFE (human nutrition, foods, and exercise),” said John Leonardo, a freshman at Virginia Tech. “The transitional advisors were informative and explanatory with the information for each major and the required classes that come with it.”

Leonardo was accepted into Virginia Tech as a business major, however after his first semester, he decided he wanted to explore other options. He realized he has a strong passion for health and how the human body works. After meeting with a transitional advisor, Leonardo was able to learn more about the HNFE major and make an informed decision to change.

Since 2015, the team of transitional advisors has grown from one to 11. Initially only offered during the academic year, transitional advising expanded to summer orientation in 2018. The number of students seen at orientation and throughout the academic year continues to increase tremendously.

Janice Chatham, a transitional advisor, enjoys meeting with students. “Each student is unique. Students like to explore their options and changing their major is a natural part of college,” Chatham said.

Normalizing the exploration process is part of the advising meeting. Chatham explained, “Many faculty and staff at Virginia Tech changed their major in college, but not enough people talk about this time of uncertainty.” Students leave transitional advising appointments feeling confident about their future.

Collaboration with colleges is integral to the success of transitional advising. College advisors may refer a student to transitional advising if they are showing interest in majors outside of their college. Transitional advisors collaborate with each college to better understand their change of major processes and specific information related to their majors to create a more seamless process of transitioning.  

Students who meet with transitional advisors may change their major within a college or to a different college entirely. Going from one major to another can be a difficult process, depending on the restrictions. Restricted majors require students to complete certain courses, acquire a competitive GPA, or complete requirements before applying for the major. While nonrestricted majors do not have specific requirements, they may still require a meeting or contacting the department or college for admission.

Transitional advising is a tool to help students graduate efficiently. With strategic goals of increasing three-year and four-year graduation rates in the future, transitional advising provides the first steps for students changing majors. This helps to ensure students take the correct classes toward their degree as soon as possible so as not to delay graduation. In this context, transitional advising is a just-in-time solution for students who need to create an academic plan while transitioning between majors.

Some students visit transitional advising multiple times throughout a given semester. Helene Goetz, a transitional advisor, says “students are able to meet with me or other transitional advisors and make an academic plan for the future. Sometimes plans change and we have to meet again. Multiple appointments give students time to make an informed decision and find their major or path.”

Goetz’s advice to incoming students is “explore all your options and understand that change can be a good thing. Even though incoming students sound confident in their major, life happens. Don’t be afraid to meet with a transitional advisor for help.”

Advising appointments are available to any current student from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday. Current students can sign up for an appointment at http://advising.vt.edu/tr.

— Written by Chenaye Blankenship and Zackary Underwood