Kristina Allemand, Nicholls State University
The Doc Is In!
Advising, like any other profession, goes through phases. Over time, our jobs became more monotonous. This not only diminishes the job satisfaction we experience but also makes us less effective advisors. Just because we have become expects at what we do, we shouldn’t lose that energy and excitement we felt when we began!
I often feel tempted to function on “autopilot” during the peak of advising and have learned to avoid it through several methods. My peak advising times are those weeks before registration begins, and these are the times that I am most susceptible. It seems that every appointment is booked, and I have a few students waiting to hopefully be seen between my scheduled appointments. Although it is tempting to just sign off or list courses that students may take in the next semester, this is not comprehensive advising. As we all know, there is much more to advising than this!
I try to think of myself as an academic doctor during these times. Picture a doctor during the peak of cold and flu season. It would be easy to treat every patient based on his or her own diagnoses but the doctor needs a more complete picture. Records must be surveyed and questions must be asked to make a full assessment. Patients may not even be aware of circumstances that could be causing their symptoms. As advisors, we are our students’ academic physicians. Whether the student is just in for a check-up or a more serious affliction, we should try to gain the most complete picture possible.
First, I survey the student’s transcript to see if anything presents itself to me. For example, I recently had a student who failed the same math course twice. I noticed that on both attempts, he took this course late in the afternoon. This led to a discussion about his daily routine and energy levels. By his own admission, his energy level is almost nonexistent after lunch. I naturally made the suggestion that he attempt the course earlier in the day. Although this is no guarantee he will pass the course, he is increasing the possibility and potential for a better outcome.
Other observations I have made from quickly surveying the student’s transcript are interests the student may not know how to utilize. If I notice that a student has chosen the same discipline for several elective courses, this pattern may present a possible minor for the student to pursue. I have found that many students never considered or didn’t know how to pursue a minor. Most assumed that it would add another year to their studies, but this not necessarily the case. Discussions about career goals and interests almost always lead to the discussion of minors, but sometimes elective courses can lead to the discussion as well.
I also keep a list of several questions on my desk to make sure I ask them of each student. Are you an athlete? If so, when is practice and when are you most likely to be traveling to games? Do you work? What is your work schedule like? Is it flexible or fixed? Do have family responsibilities? Are there any other types of restraints on your time and school schedule that I should know? These types of questions can help an advisor guide students to electives and specific courses that meet the student’s individual needs. As experienced advisors in our area of expertise, we know the rotation and format in which many courses are offered and can help students plan ahead and meet their scheduling needs and goals.
Perhaps the most important strategy to remember is simply to be energetic and involved in each appointment. Just as a student can tell when a teacher is not excited about the course or course content they are teaching, advisees can tell when their advisor is not fully dedicated to assisting them. Regardless of all of my circumstances and deadlines, that student is my first and most important priority when he or she is in my office. This is the best way to let the student know and feel that I am here to help guide them to success!
Department of Interdisciplinary Studies
Nicholls State University