Heidi Koring, Peer Advising and Mentoring Advising Interest Group Member
Just when advisors say, “I’ve finally seen it all!” an advising experience takes place that is so unusual, extraordinary, or just plain weird that it feels like an April Fool’s Day prank. Here’s one that occurred on the Lynchburg College campus recently, along with the lessons advisors can learn from it. Some names have been changed to conceal the identity of a university.
A.J. is an experienced advisor at Lynchburg College. She not only advises undergraduates, she teaches math as well. Her husband has worked in student affairs administration for many years, so she understands that dimension of student life. She is also the mother of two college students; one attends Lynchburg, and the other studies at a state university. When her phone rang the week before spring break, she was confident she could answer any advising question a student could ask.
“A.J., this is Karen, the secretary in the dean’s office. I have a student on the phone who is very upset. He’s trying to drop a course and he can’t find his advisor’s office.”
The student on the other end of the line was, indeed, distraught. While calming him down, A.J. learned he was a recent transfer named Jim who wanted to drop a course he was failing. He couldn’t find his advisor, and he asked if A.J. could sign the form for him.
“Come right over to my office,” she said. “I’m in Hall Campus Center.”
“I’m not sure where that is,” Jim said. “I feel really lost on campus and I don’t know where all the buildings are. Is it near Main Hall?”
A.J. was confused. Lynchburg College doesn’t have a building named Main Hall. But it does have a facility near the library sometimes referred to as the main classroom building.
“Where are you now?”
“I’m at the library,” Jim responded.
“Just turn right by the science building.”
“Is the science building near North Hall?”
Her confusion grew. Lynchburg College doesn’t have a North Hall either. But the names of the buildings sounded familiar to her.
“Tell me, Jim, are you attending Lynchburg College, or are you a student at the state university?” A.J. asked in disbelief.
“I’m a student at State, of course,” he answered. “And I need some advising help.”
As luck would have it, A.J.’s daughter attends this state university with the same major as Jim, so she knew exactly what office building he needed to visit. She even knew the name of the department secretary. She gave him directions and explained the procedure for dropping classes at the university. She also recommended that he seek tutoring help for the classes that were troubling him and that he visit the career center to explore some major options better suited to his strengths and interests. When he hung up, he knew exactly what to do.
As A.J. shared her story with other advisors in the Advising and Career Center, we reflected that this story contains lessons for advisors everywhere.
Take time to build rapport. Sometimes if advisors are feeling rushed, it’s a temptation to answer students’ questions too soon. Because A.J. spent time at the beginning of the conversation getting to know the student, she was able to create a relationship with him and gain his trust.
Meet students where they are developmentally. Even though Jim was a transfer student half way through his first semester, he had the knowledge of campus more consonant to that of a new freshman. Rather than trying to troubleshoot why Jim was at this developmental level, she met him there, respecting his concerns.
Listen for deeper problems and address them. Jim’s presenting problem was that he wanted to drop a class. However, A.J. quickly ascertained that Jim did not have the skill base he needed to be successful in the courses required for his major. She addressed this deeper problem through two referrals.
And finally, expect the unexpected. In the world of academic advising, no two students and no two problems are exactly the same.
Cite this article using APA style as: Koring, H. (2008, June). An advising April fool lesson . Academic Advising Today, 31(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]