The Cognitive Virtual Advisor

One of the largest adjustments I faced in life happened early on – the transition from high school to college.  My high school routine was pretty consistent, and the number of decisions I had to make as a young man was fairly limited. Then I got to college. I suddenly had to pick classes, secure housing, buy books, map out the campus – and all on my own. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement.

With over 20 million college students in the US today, many people are feeling the same way.[1] Fortunately, students today have more resources available at their fingertips than ever before. Unfortunately, that overwhelmed, uncertain feeling of where to look for specific information lingers. Even with more technology and resources available to them, students still worry about the same issues:

Did I miss a graduation requirement? Am I forgetting paperwork? Where is that form, again? What classes should I take to be competitive in the market after graduating? I need help.

There is an opportunity here that colleges, and universities need to take advantage of, and we have the technology to provide a solution. Our students are looking for a constant resource who knows their interests and sticks with them throughout their complete college career. We’re familiar with the career counselor and admissions advisor, but these aides are often swamped with administrative tasks and unable to connect with each student on an individual basis.

In comes the Cognitive Virtual Advisor, available to help our students at every stage of their college career.

Prospective students interact with a university’s virtual advisor to learn about how the school’s departments and offerings align with their personal interests and career goals. Students can take a personality assessment and work with the Advisor to define fields of interest.

Applicants ensure that they make the most of the scholarships and funding available to them with the help of the Advisor, through reminders and recommendations based on language used throughout their application. The Advisor recommends sources of financial aid and walks applicants through the application process for grants, scholarships, and loans. The Advisor even encourages applicants to improve particular areas in their application to help their chances of acceptance.

Current students trust the Advisor to navigate them through college academics. Administratively, the Advisor ensures that enrollment requirements are met each semester. When a student asks questions about classes, the Advisor looks at their course history, education plan, and career goals to provide real-time advice and recommendations. The University of Michigan and IBM are currently working on an exciting project to make this a reality for students.

Graduates leverage insights from the Advisor to apply to jobs that meet their skill set and ambitions. The Advisor provides continual valuable insight about developing industries and what companies are searching for to help graduates secure employment as quickly as possible.

Appointments and office hours allow students the critical face-to-face time they need with professors and university employees – these opportunities continue to hold value. However, these are no longer necessary for students to receive the vital information they need to plan their futures. Online, or via an app, students have access to answers for most any question that crosses their mind and through every stage of their college career. By giving students an Advisor to trust throughout that journey, we’re enabling students to improve the university experience and raise graduation rates. In turn, these students will become more engaged alumni and are more likely to donate, volunteer, and return to the university years after graduation.

The University of Michigan, through a partnership with IBM, is one of the first universities to make the Cognitive Virtual Advisor a trusted companion for students, using artificial intelligence to help students with course selection, career advice, extracurricular recommendations and homework resources. These innovators are laying the groundwork for future breakthroughs in AI, and supporting the growth and development of the world’s next generation of thinkers.

When I made that monumental transition from high school to college, I wish I’d had the help of a Cognitive Virtual Advisor to calm my nerves and ease my anxiety. Let’s help today’s students enter college with confidence and leave their alma maters with solid job prospects, empowered to make a difference in the world.


GBS Watson Sales Leader

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