How to Tell Your Advisor You Are Switching Advisors

Carolina Jacobs

Mar 8, 2023
christina-wocintechchat-com-RMweULmCYxM-unsplash (1)

We are a reader-supported education publication. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission to help us keep providing content.

College advisors are essential to our growth — a mentor who helps us pave a path toward academic achievement. That’s why figuring out how to tell your advisor you are switching advisors is enough to stress out any student.

An excellent academic advisor tailors advising sessions to meet the student’s goals and aspirations for the future — whether picking out the correct courses to propel them toward their ideal career or delivering advice for socializing and personal development. An academic advisor should also get to know their students well enough to highlight their strengths and weaknesses, unique skill sets, and more. 

So, what happens when you don’t feel supported enough, are rushed through appointments, or don’t trust your advisor? Then, it’s probably time you moved on to someone else.

3 Ways to Break Up With Your Advisor

Delivering bad news is never fun. Employers have to do it when they’re letting someone go — doctors do it when notifying a patient about a medical condition. Telling your advisor you want to break up is also hard for college students. 

However, it may be necessary if they no longer check in on your progress or provide the academic support you need to succeed. Depending on how close you were to them, here are four approaches to tell your advisor you are switching advisors. 

1. Send an Email

People often say you should never break up with someone over text. Sometimes, sending an email to break up with your advisor is viewed the same way. Although it isn’t necessarily the worst action you can take, your approach must always be professional.

An email may be appropriate if you haven’t worked with this advisor for a long time — at least not long enough to build a cohesive relationship with them. 

It’s best to communicate respectfully and straightforwardly with your advisor, even online. While you may have foreseen this, they may not have. Be direct and tell them why you plan to work with another advisor despite your appreciation for everything they’ve done. You may receive a simple email reply acknowledging your message, or they’ll want to talk in person. 

2. Call Them on the Phone

A phone call is a step up from an email, certainly. Remember that you’re not the only student your advisor works with, so consider sending them an email or leaving a voicemail that you’d like to speak to them on the phone when they have a minute.

Start the conversation by letting them know this was a difficult decision but that you need something different from an advisor. Seeing a new advisor could provide a fresh perspective as you work toward graduation and a career. 

Your former advisor may have questions for you about what went wrong. Rather than skirt the conversation, respectfully let them know your issues — this could be a learning opportunity for them to improve their advisement skills for other students.

3. Make an Appointment

The best way to tell your advisor you are switching advisors is to make an appointment and speak to them in person. After years of working together on your academic journey, it’s most fitting to give them the consideration of face-to-face communication. While this may be uncomfortable for you as the student, they will appreciate your honesty. 

Start by sending them an email notifying them of your need to talk — you should clearly state what the meeting is about so you don’t blindside them. The email should be short and concise.

When you meet up, explain why you’ve made the decision to part ways with them and why the new advisor is a better fit for where you’re at in your life. Let them know specific instances about how they’ve helped you and be clear about whether you’ll seek secondary advisement from them in the future. 

Like all breakups, it’s possible that your former advisor will make promises to change and show up the way you need them to — always adhere to empathy, understanding, and explanation, and you could remain on good terms.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Telling your advisor you’ve decided to move on to someone else is hard. You don’t want to hurt them or make them feel like they failed. However, you must prioritize your academic journey and what you need to succeed first. If they can no longer help you achieve your goals, it’s time to find someone who will.

Keep up with the
latest in learning!

Get the latest updates in learning, teaching and everything in between! Whether you're a student or an educator, we offer the inspiration you need to fuel your classroom experience.

Join Our Newsletter

Written By