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Practical approaches to advising: High school advisory programs create support systems for students transitioning from high school to college
Authored By: Mara Schanfield
2010

What is high school advisory?
Individual students in large high schools can feel insignificant, unknown or even lost. When a student feels this way, success is exponentially harder to achieve. Recent research finds that being known and having a sense of connectedness has positive effects on academic achievement and keeps students coming to school (Blum & Libbey, 2004).
 
Educators know that students’ academic skills do not grow in isolation from their social-emotional development. Student performance (efficacy and academic outcomes) can be positively influenced by personalizing the learning environment to meet the most basic social needs of learners—to be recognized, appreciated and supported. Once students feel safe and connected they are equipped to rise to the high standards educators set. In order for students to do well in the classroom, their developmental needs must be concurrently addressed.
 
One method for meeting these needs in high school is called Advisory, an academic support program used at middle and high schools across the country. An Advisory program is a structure built into the school day through which an adult and a small group of students meet regularly for academic guidance and support (Poliner & Lieber, 2004). Within the program, a teacher or school staff member serves as an advisor to a small group of students, connects with their families regularly, and collaborates with the school’s counseling staff. Advisory programs aim to lower individual students’ barriers to success while helping students connect with peers.

Advisory programs serve many purposes in high schools, but the overarching purpose is to personalize students’ learning environment. Advisory connects students and staff in ways that can decrease the pervasive anonymity in large high schools that has been correlated with dropout (Youth Transitions Task Force, 2006). When schools provide access to extracurricular opportunities for development, students are more likely to succeed (Croninger & Lee, 2001). This is particularly important for children who come from under-served families and neighborhoods (Croninger & Lee, 2001).

Advisory is highly connected to lowering dropout rates, raising four-year graduation rates, and improving the trajectory for students to continue academic pursuits and post-secondary training after high school. When we link the academic and social/personal dimensions of schooling together, school achievement scores rise and student potential flourishes.

Differences between high school and college advisors
Colleges and universities have long appreciated the potential in student-advisor relationships. Almost every college student is connected with an academic advisor familiar with their field of study who advises them on a variety of academic issues including course selection. Advisement at the high school and college level are built on the same foundation---the relationship between advisor and student.
 
At the collegiate level academic advisors help students make the most of their college experiences, including advice on how to choose courses to best serve their career interests. Some college students only know their advisor as the person who lifts an enrollment hold twice each year. Other students meet more often with their advisors who fill a crucial mentorship role; in these cases, collegiate advisors talk with students about a variety of academic issues. When personal challenges arise collegiate advisors typically refer students to campus’ mental health services; when personal issues arise in high school advisors work with the counseling staff to help students cope.
 
High school advisory programs include regularly scheduled meetings so the advisor and students get to know each other well. The high school advisor can become the trusted adult students turn to for support beyond the classroom. In essence, high school advisory lowers the non-academic barriers to learning, supports students through challenges, and directs students to the resources and relationships they need to succeed. Advisory distinctly layers supports for students. Because students meet in a group with their advisor, high school advisory effectively leverages the positive influence of peers on a student’s success.

How high school Advisory helps students successfully transition to college
Advisory can make a meaningful difference in the students’ post-secondary trajectory. The intrinsic motivation and social skills built in high school Advisory programs engage students and help to form a foundation of social, emotional, and study skills needed for students to succeed in college.
 
Advisors can make a meaningful difference too. One caring adult in a child’s life can make a lasting impact on his or her developmental trajectory (Rutter, 1990). An advisor who knows a student’s interests can direct the student toward enrichment opportunities (internships, programs of study, resources) in order to explore careers and enhance college applications. By an advisor getting to know a student and her family well (sometimes over the course of four years), the advisor can help guide the student through the college application process. For example, a 12th grade advisory group can provide the setting needed for students to learn about post-secondary options, discuss the application process, edit application essays, and receive regular reminders as they meet college application deadlines. Support in navigating the college application process is particularly important for students who are the first in their family to attend college.
 
In schools where guidance counselors are overburdened and personalized attention is not always the norm, advisors play a critical role in answering questions, writing recommendation letters, and ensuring that students are on track to graduate. Malone (2009) noted that advising a key to student success; “high school students need diverse support to gain the many skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college including academic content competencies, college applicationguidance, cognitive and critical thinking skills, civic awareness, time management and teamwork strategies, and healthy social-emotional coping abilities”(¶4).
 

Advisory can take many forms. At the Colorado Springs Early College High School, students are being grouped by career cluster in accordance with their professional interests as determined by a career inventory. College professors team up with high school advisors to add a depth of career experience neither could provide alone. In this model, college professors play a critical role in making the curriculum relevant as they engage students in the career exploration process.

The MET Schools, a network of unique charter schools, take advisory to a whole new level. In fact, these schools have nothing but advisory! Students meet in a same group all day, all year long, as the advisor guides them through a self-paced and self-directed course of academic study. Advisors help to effectively engage students and weave career skills into the curriculum (DeMartino & Wolk, 2010). To learn more about their model, go to: www.metschools.com.
 
The Posse Foundation is another example of deliberate high school to college transition support. Posse sends cohorts of 10 students from the same city to a small, liberal arts college together on full four-year scholarships granted by the receiving institution. Each fall since 1989 “posses” of 10 head off to college together. This is Posse’s trade secret --leveraging a small cohort of students to support each other-- much like high school advisory. Prior to matriculation, the cohort meets weekly, from January to August, to ensure the students are academically and socially prepared for the challenges of college. By the time they Posse students arrive on campus, they are ready to transition successfully and often become positive voices for campus change. Hardly any other program can boast 90% college graduation rates within six years ( www.possefoundation.org)

Leveraging high school advisory in higher education
Some lessons can be translated from successful high school advisory programs to the collegiate level. Recommendations for college advising programs include:

  • Ongoing professional development. Successful high school advisory programs offer ongoing support to advisors. Advisor knowledge of the available social, emotional and academic supports for students is the first step. College advisors should stay up-to-date on the available resources for student physical, mental and emotional health. Advisor peer-to-peer training and support can help disseminate best practices.
  • The group advising aspect of high school advisory. College advising programs should consider replicating the group social interaction piece of high school advisory by meeting with advisees in a group such as in learning communities or first-year experience courses. This approach can save the college advisor time and create new bonds between students with similar interests  who then can support each other.
  • Communication between secondary and post-secondary advisors. High school advisors should communicate about their outgoing students with receiving collegiate advisors when they have signed permission from the students in accordance with FERPA regulations. This practice can decrease transitional turbulence for incoming college freshmen. A phone call from the high school advisors to the director of a college academic advising program could provide the name and contact info of the high school advisor for each incoming advisory graduate. This connection is particularly helpful for first-generation students.
  • Connecting with students' families. High school advisors are expected to connect with a student's family as they advise the student. While student right to privacy (FERPA) rules are more protective at the collegiate level, college advising program directors should consider providing families with guide to academic advising that describes the role of the collegiate academic advisor, outlines the advising process, highlights important academic issues facing new college students, and delineates available resources. 

Conclusion
Hodges (2010) called advisors at all levels to action saying“I propose that academic advisors consider pioneering a new frontier of collaboration between secondary and postsecondary stakeholders in order to make dreams come true for countless high school students” (¶3). Hodges is right - we can increase post-secondary student success rates through intentional collaboration to create a seamless path for students as they move from one level to the next.


References:
 

Blum, R. & Libbey, H. (2004). School Connectedness – Strengthening Health and Education Outcomes for Teenagers. Journal of School Health, 74(4).  Retrieved from http://www.jhsph.edu/wingspread/Septemberissue.pdf

Croninger, R.G. & Lee, V.E. (2001). Social capital and dropping out of high schools: Benefits to at-risk students of teachers’ support and guidance. Teachers College Record, 103(4), 548- 581.

DiMartino, J. & Wolk, D. (2010). The Personalized High School: Making Learning Count for Adolescents. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA.
 

Hodges, A. (2010). Venture to a New Frontier, Our Local High Schools: The Need for Partnership between Postsecondary Academic Advisors and Secondary Schools. Academic Advising Today, 33 (4). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/AAT/NW33_4.htm#5.
 

Malone, H. J. (2009, Fall). Build a bridge from high school to college: Transition programs are essential for many disadvantaged students. Phi Kappa Phi Forum. Retrieved from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4026/is_200910/ai_n39234016/.

Poliner, R. & Lieber, C. (2004). The Advisory Guide. Cambridge, MA: Educators for Social Responsibility.  

Rutter, M. (1990). Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms. In J. Rolf, A.S. Masten, D. Cicchetti, K.H. Nuechterlein, & S. Weintraub (Eds.), Risk and protective factors in the development of psychopathology (pp. 181-214). New York: Cambridge University Press.
 

Youth Transitions Task Force Report. (2006). Too Big To Be Seen: The Invisible Dropout Crisis in Boston and America. Boston, MA: Boston Private Industry Council.


Cite this using APA style as:

Schanfield, M. (2010). Practical approaches to advising: High school programs create support systems for students transitioning from high school to college. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources website: 
http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/High-school-advisory-programs.aspx

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