Dianne T. Castor, NACADA Two-Year Colleges Commission Chair
Academic advisors face increasing challenges each year. What are the most effective ways to deal with enrollment increases when there has been little or no increase in budget? How do we handle the advising needs of these students? How can colleges effectively cope with the increasing numbers of transfer students? How can we use orientations to enhance advisement? These are just a few of the many challenges faced every day by advisors at most colleges, but particularly at two-year colleges.
The key to attacking campus problems is teamwork; the entire campus – from president to classified employees – must work together. Committees dealing with campus issues must include members – from academics, student services, administrative affairs, and classified staff – who are committed to solving problems and bringing success to the campus. An old song titled “Little Is Much” comes to mind when attempting to work out budget problems; when campus resources are pooled, larger projects can be tackled with less money.
Many two-year colleges focus their initial campus efforts on the development of a comprehensive orientation program that includes a strong academic advising component. Advisor inclusion in the planning and implementation of orientation programs can help establish a solid foundation on which students can build their knowledge in college.
Students must find out what resources are available that can assist them in achieving their college goals. They need to be made aware of learning/tutorial resource availability. Students need to be educated regarding the terms that will be used in colleges; terms such as GPA (grade point average), credit hour, academic probation and/ or dismissal may seem everyday to some, but these terms may be new to first time and/or first generation students. Students should be shown how grades are calculated and how grades affect their academic standing as well as their financial aid. Students need to know that there are consequences for poor grades and lack of attendance. Additionally, they need to know the differences between certificate, career, and transfer programs, and how courses and grades may or may not transfer from one institution to another institution.
On-line orientations can provide more time for one-on-one advising of individual students. This delivery method also provides students with the opportunity to revisit a particular area in which they need further clarification. It is especially helpful if on-line orientations provide students with the opportunity to have individual questions answered via email or in person at an advising session.
When meeting with students one-on-one, two-year college advisors often find themselves challenged by a student who wants to be elsewhere. This student may appear frustrated and irritated during the advising session. How can an advisor effectively help such a student? First, become this student’s number one advocate. Look at the student’s records and ask open-ended questions to encourage student/advisor interaction. Often a carefully worded question may be the key to finding the answer to a student’s problem. Are there academic issues involved in this student’s decision to attend the two-year college? Are there financial issues? Were personal issues involved in the student’s decision? Once the primary reason for attendance is established, the student and advisor can explore potential solutions to the problem. Advisors can determine if referrals to other departments can help the student begin work on a solution to the problem. Advisors should also encourage the student to make a follow-up appointment to discuss the student’s progress toward the solution.
Additional challenges may occur when students “reverse transfer” from a four-year college or university. Advisors should first determine why the student transferred. Was the reason academic, financial, personal, or some combination? Was the student not prepared for college? Is remediation needed? Was the student trying to work too many hours? Did the student’s extracurricular activities interfere with study time? Was too little study time available? Was the course load too great? A carefully worded question, e.g. “tell me what you did on a typical day at your former school,” can reveal the issues that can help an advisor assist the student. Once the problem areas are understood, the student and advisor can begin working together toward solutions.
Advisors at two-year colleges need encouragement that they are meeting the challenges and expectations of their advising roles. Monetary rewards are great, but in many cases needed resources simply are not available. In these cases, begin by encouraging advisors via email. Then consider a certificate of merit; an “Advisor of the Year” program can offer recognition to outstanding advisors. Sending advisors to regional and national NACADA conferences supports professional development that reinforces advisor growth. Advisors can be encouraged to become NACADA members and join a commission. Because each commission addresses a specific advisor need, commission members usually face similar challenges and are willing to share their ideas with their colleagues. NACADA monographs also provide a wealth of information from advising pioneers.
To meet the growing challenges faced by advisors, the need for teamwork, advocacy, problem-solving skills, creativity, and administrative support will continue to grow in importance in the years ahead. If we network and build our skills now, we can move successfully into the future.
If you would like to find out more regarding two-year college advising, please visit the Two-Year Colleges Commission Web site.
Dianne T. Castor
Coastal Georgia Community College
Cite this article using APA style as: Castor, D. (2005, June). Challenges for two-year college advisors. Academic Advising Today, 28(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]