How to Thrive, Not Just Survive, As a New Advisor

Categories: Advising as a Profession

Authored by: Marsha A. Miller

Whether you come to academic advising as a new hire or as a veteran faculty member, the first few weeks advising students can be overwhelming. It can be a challenge to organize the various demands so that you will not only survive academic advising, but thrive doing it. Since students' academic futures depend upon your advice, you need to understand what students expect from you.

A look at advisor evaluation tools shows that students expect you to be proficient in three critical areas: they expect you to know the college; they expect you to be able to help them solve problems; and they expect you to be able to communicate effectively.

One of the first things any new advisor should do is become familiar with the campus culture. Who are your students? What needs do they have? Ask advisors working in your specific field or at the same level (freshmen, graduate students, etc.) what issues students typically bring to advisors. Then connect these issues to the applicable campus services. Walk around campus and meet the people in each service area. Write down names, office locations and contact phone numbers.

Advisees expect you to know your institution's academic programs, policies and procedures, i.e., how to read placement scores, who helps students explore different majors, how a student drops or adds a course. Read the catalog. Talk to faculty and staff members. Target topics germane to your situation and have the director of advising or an experienced advisor walk through the advising folders of students who have been successfully helped with issues in each area.

Advisees also expect you to help them solve a wide variety of problems, i.e., how to balance their course loads with life responsibilities, what courses should or should not be taken simultaneously, etc. Listen. Then provide perspective and options. Know where to find answers. Talk to course instructors and other advisors. Seek out the perspective of students who have successfully completed courses frequently taken by your advisees.

Finally, advisees expect you to know how to communicate effectively. This is much easier if you are already familiar with a student's advising folder. Take some time before the student arrives to review the folder. Be friendly and focus on the student, minimizing distractions such as phone calls. Use the student's name. Learn to say: 'I don't know but let's find out.' Don't send the student on a scavenger hunt for a nameless, faceless office; pick up the phone and call your campus contact. Helping the student make a referral appointment will increase the likelihood of follow-through.

Remember that many students come to an advising session on one pretext when the real issue is something completely different. Learn to hear the real reason for the visit. Help the student identify the problem and brainstorm potential solutions. Don't dictate. Instead, empower the student by letting the student decide which course of action is best.

At the end of a session, ask 'what question haven't we answered today?' Leave time to deal with these issues and, if needed, schedule a follow-up session to evaluate the outcome of any planned actions.

While the first few weeks of advising are filled with challenges, taking time to address these vital areas can establish you as an effective and trusted advisor.

Authored by Marsha Miller
NACADA Assistant Director, Resources & Services

SUGGESTED READING for one-on-one advising:

Getting Started:

Drake, J., Hemwall, M. & Stockwell, K. (2009). A Faculty guide to academic advising . Manhattan, KS: NACADA.

Folsom, P. (2007). The New Advisor Guidebook: Mastering the Art of Advising of Advising Through the First Year and Beyond.  Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.

Ford, Jerry (1991) A Caring Attitude. Academic Advising News, Volume 13 (3).

  • Great advice for making students feel comfortable.

Fox, Rusty. (2008) Delivering One-to-One Advising: Skills and competencies. In Gordon, V.N., Habley, W.R., & Grites, T.J. (Eds.). (2008). Academic advising:A Comprehensive handbook (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

  • This chapter lays the foundation for the skills needed to effectively communicate with advisees. 

Gordon, V.G., Habley, W.R., & Grites T.J. (2008). Academic advising: A comprehensive Handbook ( second edition). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

  • The 'bible' of academic advising.

Haydon, Lisa (2004) ' If I were to write a book about advising for new advisors... ' NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources.

  • Inspirational article by an advisor considering what makes advising an enjoyable and deeply meaningful occupation.

Miller, Marsha A. (2002). 'How to Thrive, Not Just Survive, As a New Advisor.' The Academic Advising News, 25(4).

  • Advice for new advisors.  Article posted above.

Morano, Matthew. (1999) Challenges Encountered by New Advisers : Honest Answers, Practical Solutions. The Mentor, electronic publication about academic advising in higher education. Volume 1, number 1. Retrieved from http://www.psu.edu/dus/mentor/990101mm.htm

  • Practical solutions to three challenges facing new advisors.

 

Referral Information:

MakingEffective Referrals. Center for Excellence in Academic Advising web site, Penn State University. 

  • Web site providing useful links and advising tips for faculty and staff advisors.

 

National Academic Advising Association (2002), Career Advising Links.

  • Links to a career related web sites including 'What Can I Do with a Major in...' and a variety of resources to help advise undecided students.

Southeastern Louisiana University (2002) Career and Academic Planning Center .

  • A number of career links available by pressing 'Career Planning' on toolbar on the right side of the web page.

Tips for Making Effective Referrals in Academic Advising. Jack Roundy, (1992; reprinted in 2004). Academic Advising News, 14(2).

Newsletter article from long-time NACADA member.

The advising session:

Burton, John and Wellington, Kathy. (1998) ' The O'Banion Model of Academic Advising: An Integrative Approach '. NACADA Journal 18(2):13–20.

Darley. (1990) 'Advising Reminders: The Advising Appointment.' In the Academic Advising News, 12 (3). Retrieved from Advising-Appointment.htm.

  • Practical tips for conducting an advising session. 

First 10 Questions to Ask an Advisee, Center for Excellence in Academic Advising, Penn State University.

  • Web site that provides useful links for both faculty and staff advisors.

Foushee, R. D. (2008). Academic advising and teachable moments : Making the most of the advising experience.  The Observer, a publication of the Association for Psychological Science.

Jordan, P.A. (2007). Building effective communication through listening, interviewing, and referral. In Folsom, P. The New advisor guidebook: Mastering the art of advising through the first year and beyond .

Excellent article from the definitive monograph for new advisors.  This best selling monograph should be in the hands of all new advisors.

Mavrovouniotis, Michael. (1997) Academic Advising Tips for New Educators . Paper presented at the meeting of the American Society of Engineering Educators, Session 1275.

Practical tips for conducting an advising session.

Mitchell McLeod, Anna (2008). More Than a Conversation: Using Aspects of Dialogue to Improve Academic Advising. Academic Advising Today 31 (3). Retrieved August 18, 2008, from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/AAT/NW31_3.htm#6

Excellent article discussing how to establish a dialogue with students.

NACADA (2008) . Scenes for Learning and Reflection : An Academic Advising Professional Development DVD

 

NACADA(2010). Scenes for Learning and Reflection , DVD Volume 2

  • Each volume of this DVD series contains ten advising scenes suggested by NACADA Commission and Interest Group members. All of these “vignettes” feature real students and professional and faculty advisors as they deal with important advising issues faced on today’s campuses. Suggested discussion questions at the end of each three minute scene provide viewers with starting points for conversations on how these topics relate to their own campus policies and procedures.

NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. (2010). Resources to Assist in Structuring an Advising Session. 

NACADA. (2008). Significant conversations: The art and science of communication. NACADA Webcast 19.

Newcomb, Jessica. (2009) 'One More Draft: How the Writing Process Shapes the Academic Advising Session.' Academic Advising Today, 32(1).

  • Great idea on how the writing process relates to the structure of advising.
Wayne State University (2006). The Advising Interview .
  • Advice for structuring an advising session. 
 

Cite this resource using APA style as:

Miller, M. A. (2002, December).How to thrive, not just survive, as a new advisor. The Academic Advising News, 25(4). Retrieved -insert today's date- from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site [insert link here].