Effective Date Feb 6, 2014
The Academic Advising Role
Undergraduates have been described by Dr. Thomas H. Peake, School of Psychology, as being in the latter stages of becoming adults. They display, in varying degrees of competence, emotions and independence, a sense of personal identity, relationship skills, purpose and integrity.
The primary purpose of academic advising is to assist students in their pursuit of a college experience to help them fulfill their life goals. Advisers, thus, need to assist students in:
- clarifying life goals,
- developing their educational plans,
- selecting appropriate courses and other educational experiences,
- using university support services,
- developing decision-making skills, and
- developing the capacity to evaluate alternatives and direct their efforts productively.
Some Strategies for Advising
Basic strategies of advisement used to assist in individual student development are emphasized below.
Become acquainted with the advisee in as many aspects as possible
Getting to know the advisee outside the formality of the office can be extremely valuable. Knowing the academic abilities and background of the advisee is also important. Having good documentation (the advising folder) such as high school courses with grades, rank in graduating class, ACT or SAT scores, transfer courses and grades from other universities, and present academic status is essential when assessing a student’s ability and future direction.
Explore the objectives, interests and motivations of the advisee
The advisee’s actual certainty of future objectives and goals is difficult to ascertain. When the advisor has some knowledge of the advisee’s nonacademic background—such as home influence, hobbies and friends—a more thorough type of advisement is possible.
Develop rapport with advisee
If the student knows the advisor as a professional person who has a genuine interest in students, the advisement process becomes much more beneficial for both advisor and advisee.
The student should be encouraged to become acquainted with other faculty members in the academic unit, because multiple contacts can be useful to the student who is attempting to assess his/her personal goals.
Become knowledgeable concerning university rules, policies, regulations and procedures that affect academic programs and activity
Every advisor must be well-informed regarding current academic policies and procedures. Prior review of policies and study of policy changes should be a regular activity of each advisor before beginning each registration period. Familiarity with courses generally taken by advisees, the characteristics of teachers of the courses and how prior students have appraised the courses can make the advisement process smoother and more successful. Suggesting student involvement in campus activities is often the key to retention in school.
Evaluate student motivation
Enhancing a student’s motivation by capitalizing on good academic planning can be a very helpful strategy. Suggested strategies might include:
- Matching courses early in the program to the student’s academic strengths, interests and backgrounds.
- Helping the student to build on success rather than failure.
- Challenging capable students to continue their efforts toward academic excellence.
- Explaining the rewards of a strong academic program and associated good grades.
Be aware of the limitations of responsibility as to where the burden of the advisement process falls on the shoulders of the student
Advisers cannot make decisions for an advisee, but they can be a sympathetic listener and offer various alternatives for the advisee’s consideration. Advisers cannot increase the ability of a student, but can encourage the maximum use of that ability. While advisors cannot change some aspects of course schedules or employment loads, the students can be referred to the proper offices for such adjustments.
Seek to determine the level of advisement appropriate for your own comfort and the student’s training
Advisers should not attempt to personally handle complex problems concerning financial aid, mental or physical health, or personal or social counseling. When these situations arise, the faculty advisor should refer students to professional personnel who are specially trained and knowledgeable about dealing with such problems.
Online Degree Evaluation and Advising
The degree evaluation tool, CAPP, lets students and their advisors plan course schedules and view degree evaluations. It can also show what courses would be needed if the student changed major.
The tool analyzes where the student is in terms of their major. It shows what classes have been taken that will be applied to their degree, their program and overall GPA and any classes that have not been used. Advisers can also view the student’s current enrollment and any previous evaluations that have been run, run a new evaluation, and to find out how many course would be needed if the student added a minor.
Detailed instructions and more information about how and when to use the degree evaluation tool may be accessed from the student academics tab in Access Florida Tech under resources.
Some Interview Techniques Used in Advising
Opening: Greet students by name, be relaxed and warm. Open with a question.
Phrasing Questions: Avoid yes/no questions to increase conversational flow.
Listening: Don’t out-talk a student. Listening allows one to identify feelings behind words. Be silent and let the student search for his/her own words or ideas.
Accepting the Student’s Attitudes and Feelings: Convey acceptance in a nonjudgmental way. If the student thinks it’s a problem, so does the advisor. Try to understand where the student is coming from.
Cross-examining: Don’t rapidly fire questions at the student.
Admitting Your Ignorance: Admit when you do not know the answer. Go to your resources for the information or call the student back later when you have the information.
Setting Limits on the Interview: It’s better if the advisor and the student realize from the beginning that the interview will last for a fixed length of time.
Ending the Interview: It’s best to end the interview at the agreed time. Offer to schedule another appointment.
Key Reminders for Effective Advising
- Care about advisees as people and keep in frequent contact.
- Establish a warm, genuine and open relationship.
- Evidence interest, helpful intent and involvement.
- Be a good listener.
- Establish a rapport with advisees by remembering personal information. Keep a record of past conversations.
- Be available, keep office hours and appointments, and seek out advisees in formal settings.
- Provide accurate information.
- Refer to the current University Catalog, etc.
- Know how and when to make referrals, allow the students to do it in your presence and be familiar with referral sources.
- Don’t attempt to handle situations for which you are not qualified.
- Help students make their own decisions.
- Focus on the advisee’s strengths rather than limitations.
- Determine reasons for poor academic performance and direct advisees to appropriate support services.
- Clearly outline the advisee’s responsibilities and monitor their progress toward educational goals.
- Follow up on commitments made to advisees.
- Encourage advisees to consider and develop career alternatives when appropriate.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of your advising.
- Don’t be critical of other faculty or staff to anyone.
- Be knowledgeable about career opportunities and the job outlook for various majors.
- Don’t betray confidential information.
Advising Undecided Students
Use this plan in a 20-minute advising session or over an extended period of time. A trusting advising relationship needs to be established; the first contact is critical. Remind the students your role is one of support to provide continuity and stability.
Step 1: How undecided is the student?
- Why are they undecided?
- What majors are they considering? What majors have they eliminated?
- (If they can’t answer either question, go through a complete list of the majors offered, giving an explanation of each.)
- Be sensitive to sex-role stereotyping.
- Listen for students’ values when identifying alternatives.
Step 2: How should the advisor help students to organize a plan for gathering information?
- What type of information do they need?
- Devise a plan for gathering information.
- Refer to campus resources.
- Establish a timeline.
Step 3: How should the advisor help the student organize the information gathered?
- Integrate personal assessment into career choices.
- Help them understand academic and occupational relationships, including majors that lead to occupational possibilities.
- Help them understand how majors fit values and goals.
- Help them narrow their options to two or three.
Step 4: How should advisors support students while they make decisions?
- Offer feedback on the process.
- Help identify external factors.
- Help them understand their decision-making process.
- Support their decision.
Step 5: How should the advisor help students initiate an action plan?
- Help identify actions, steps and resources needed to take action.
- Help set up a realistic timetable for taking action.
- Remind students that no plan is static; as changes take place, new decisions may need to be made.
Step 6: How does an advisor encourage future contact?
- Be available to help them to assess further or update their decision.