Occasionally we get questions of the form

I am a student of $N$th year majoring in $A$ with minor or emphasis in $B$. I took courses $C_1,C_2,\dots,C_n$ and did extracurricular activities $E_1,\dots,E_m$. I am interested in $F$, but also intrigued by career possibilities in $G$; my current plan is to do $J$ after graduation. Unfortunately I am facing issues $I_1,\dots,I_k$. Which of the options $O_1,\dots,O_s$ should I choose?

Usually, some advice is offered by users with uncertain academic credentials and experience, no direct knowledge of the student's situation, and no knowledge of the curriculum of their institution. (Real Analysis in School A is not the same course as Real Analysis in School B, even if both are in the United States.)

I think we should totally drop this and make it clear in the Help Center that such questions are off-topic.

And some kinds of questions are considered off-topic:

... Questions about choosing a course or an academic program. They should be directed to those employed by the institution in question.

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    $\begingroup$ It seems (to my surprise) Academia is not mentioned in help center, or perhaps I overlooked it; now, the specific question you mention is also off-topic there, but I just happened to notice and it felt somewhat relevant in that context. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ I've felt the same way for a long time (about the suggestion in the post.) This is a good idea. $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 3:54
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    $\begingroup$ Can we get Academia.SE added to the off-topic, other SE network list? There are enough of these questions to justify it, I think, especially with the reception this post has had. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 5:28
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    $\begingroup$ @CameronWilliams Not sure. Six migrations in 90 days, one rejected. A likely issue is that many Math.SE users may not be aware of Academia's scope; e.g., "academic advising"-type questions that I mention here are squarely off-topic there. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 5:42
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    $\begingroup$ You're right. I kind of lost sight of the forest despite all the trees in your post. It's definitely off topic over there. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 5:52
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    $\begingroup$ @CameronWilliams See this feature-request. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 8:17
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    $\begingroup$ If they write it up like that, it certainly looks like it's on topic :-) $\endgroup$
    – k_g
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 3:14
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    $\begingroup$ I think we should allow such questions. They should probably be CW, but, advice outside ones own institution can be useful. Not everyone has the good fortune of studying in an institution where high standards of mathematics are practiced or expected. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ I upvoted you purely for the excellent use of mathematical notation to express the format of such questions. By the end, I was half expecting you to write some matrix relation.... $\endgroup$
    – heropup
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 4:33
  • $\begingroup$ The close-reason from the answer below is live, too. $\endgroup$
    – user642796
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 8:58
  • $\begingroup$ Nice one, @Arthur! $\endgroup$
    – Lord_Farin
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 10:17

1 Answer 1


Totally agree, and should have done something about this a while ago. To this end, I additionally propose making a new custom close reason:

Seeking personal advice. Questions about choosing a course, academic program, career path, etc. are off-topic. Such questions should be directed to those employed by the institution in question, or other qualified individuals who know your specific circumstances.

(This answer is community-wiki, so if you have an idea about how to improve the wording of this close reason, feel free to edit.)

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    $\begingroup$ So... When will it be activated? $\endgroup$
    – Lord_Farin
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe a parenthetical remark should be added, clarifying exceptions. After all, we have book-recommendation and reference-request tags. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ To be fair, there isn't exactly a place to go anywhere on this site if you are in high school and below. Academia doesn't even take questions unless you're above an undergrad. The Meta Meta site took a question, but that was only because my question had fortunate context referring to all of SE. So I think questions having to do with academia, as long as it pertains to this site, should be allowed. $\endgroup$
    – Zach466920
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ Is this a sufficiently common problem to justify a new close reason as opposed to just using the "other" close reason or the "not within the scope defined in the help center" reason? Personally, I would think that clarifying in the help center is a better tactic here. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 1:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Lord_Farin If this is the route we go, I want to make sure that it's in a pretty good state before it becomes live. I'd like to give it at least 2-3 days for people to read it over before we push it into the system. It's a bit of a bother to edit these things. $\endgroup$
    – user642796
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 3:23
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    $\begingroup$ @MiloBrandt I think it's a growing problem. Sure, with the sheer number of questions we receive it is a minuscule drop in the bucket, but that should be true with most close reasons. At the same time a close reason like this will provide some guidance to users who do ask such questions, and won't really give them the hope that a quick edit here or there will make their questions on-topic. Sure, editing the /help/on-topic page will be done in concert with this, but people don't read that page anyway. $\endgroup$
    – user642796
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 3:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Zach466920 I don't understand your point of view. There isn't either an SE site for fashion aficionados, it doesn't mean that math.SE needs to pick up the slack and allow questions about fashion. If something is off-topic here, it's off-topic regardless of whether there exists an SE site for it. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 7:00

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