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Creating a Personal Philosophy of Academic Advising
Creating a written personal philosophy of academic advising is a creative endeavor that requires thought, introspection, study, and the ability to clearly communicate personal objectives for advising students and being an active participant in the academic advising field. Creating such a philosophy is not an easy or quick process, but it can and should be done by all academic advisors.
The good news is that there are no wrong answers. An advisor’s personal philosophy is hers and hers alone. When creating a personal philosophy of academic advising there are guidelines to follow and components advisors should consider including, but the content belongs to the advisor. A personal philosophy of academic advising is a living document that changes and grows as the advisor’s understanding of academic advising increases. An advisor will return to her personal philosophy again and again to draw inspiration and reconnect with the reasons she is an advisor. The creation and maintenance of a personal advising philosophy will help an advisor become more effective now and in the future.
What is a Personal philosophy of academic advising?
A personal philosophy of academic advising is a positive, self-motivating statement of what academic advising means to an advisor. It describes the theories an advisor uses as a foundation for her advising practice and how she approaches that practice. It explains why she is an advisor, guides her day-to-day decisions, helps shape her professional goals and objectives, and provides a solid base for her advising practice (Dyer, 2007).
How will a personal philosophy of academic advising affect my work?
A personal philosophy of academic advising gives structure to advising sessions and provides “a sense of clarity and focus in day-to-day interactions with students and in long-term career goals” (Dyer, p. 48). It allows an advisor to incorporate theories of student development into her day-to-day work and “provides a clear rationale” for working with students (Dyer, p. 48).
Even if an advisor does not realize it, when she advises students, she already has a personal philosophy of academic advising. Every advisor uses some approach and method in her student interactions even if it is not intentional. Being aware of her own personal philosophy of academic advising enables the advisor to examine and improve her methods and interactions with students. In short, it enables her to be a better advisor.
Who should have a personal philosophy of academic advising?
All who advise students such as staff advisors, faculty, counselors, graduate students and peer advisors should have an expressed personal philosophy of academic advising. Developing a personal philosophy of academic advising helps an advisor perform her role more effectively and in a more thoughtful manner.
What should be included in a personal philosophy of academic advising?
While an individual personal philosophy of academic advising is just that, a personal statement different from anyone else’s, there are commonalities and elements that appear in many personal philosophy statements. An advisor’s philosophy should reflect the spirit of the National Academic Advising Association’s (NACADA) Statement of Core Values, the ethical code that guides our profession. Even if a college’s vision, values, mission, and goals are not mentioned explicitly in an advisor’s personal philosophy of academic advising, her personal vision of advising, personal values, advising mission, and professional goals should not be in opposition to the college’s or to those set down by NACADA.
An advisor’s personal philosophy of academic advising should include a description of the approach(es) used within her advising practice, a short description of how she uses student development theories in her advising, and how she intends to interact with students. The philosophy also can include a description of advising activities of interest and how the advisor plans to improve those activities. Note that interest in a specific aspect of academic advising does not imply that an advisor will specialize in that area; academic advisors should have a broad base of knowledge about the field as well as specific interests in topics within it.
An advisor’s personal philosophy should indicate the level of advisor she aspires to become. Freitag (2011) delineated four levels of professionalism advisors can choose to be through their actions and behaviors: advising practitioner, emerging advising professional, academic advising professional, or academic advising scholar. An advisor’s philosophy should reflect practices they perform now and the activities they plan to use to reach their classification of choice.
Creating a personal philosophy of academic advising
To create an effective personal philosophy of academic advising an advisor must have a solid academic foundation in the field of academic advising and in student development. An advisor who lacks such a background can add to her knowledge through classes, readings, and study.
A good place to begin building the foundation needed to craft a personal philosophy is in the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources: (http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse.aspx ).
Additional useful resources for developing a personal philosophy of academic advising include:
- Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook, Gordon, Habley, and Grites editors. 2nd Edition.
Chapter 2: Theoretical Foundations of Academic Advising, by Peter Hagen and Peggy Jordan
Chapter 5: Advising for Student Success, George Kuh
Chapter 6: Advising as Teaching and Learning, Drew Appleby
Chapter 7: Advising for Career and Life Planning, Paul Gore Jr. and A. J. Metz
Chapter 21: Tools and Resources for Advisors, Pat Folsom
Chapter 22: Delivering One-to-One Advising: Skills and Competencies, Rusty Fox
- Student Development in College: Theory, Research, and Practice by Evans, Forney, and Guido.
- Theories and approaches applicable to academic advising in the NACADA Clearinghouse: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Applying-Theory-to-Advising-Practice.aspx
Questions an advisor should ask themselves when developing a personal philosophy of academic advising include:
- What are my institution’s published values, goals and mission?
- What is the purpose of academic advising at my institution?
- What are my strengths as an academic advisor?
- What excites me about academic advising?
- Do I feel an affinity towards specific types of students?
- What topics related to academic advising interest me?
- What research projects related to advising am I interested in pursuing?
- What are my best developed skills and competencies within academic advising?
- What legal or ethical situations do I encounter most often in advising students?
- What advising approaches do I use with students?
- Which theories of student development do I use in advising?
- Which identity theories do I use in advising?
- Which typology theories do I use in advising?
- Do I strive to increase the feeling in students that they matter to me, to the institution, and to society?
And perhaps most importantly:
- Why am I an academic advisor?
- How do I make a difference in the lives of students and colleagues?
How to begin
Thoughts and ideas written down as they occur during the practice of advising and while reading or studying can be used to shape a personal philosophy of academic advising. Length is not as important as the quality of the thoughts and the level of their significance to the advisor. A one page philosophy may be enough for many advisors, while other advisors will be hard-pressed to keep a personal philosophy of academic advising under three pages. There is no wrong length for a personal philosophy.
To get the most benefit from her efforts, an advisor should share and discuss the written personal philosophy of academic advising with her advising colleagues and administrators. Through such discussions an advisor will sharpen her philosophy and bring into focus her skills and experience as an academic advisor. Through the process of creating, updating, reviewing, and sharing her personal philosophy of academic advising, she will become a better advisor for her students.
IT Principal Analyst
Pima Community College
Dyer, Allen N. (2007). Advisement philosophy. In Folsom, P. (Ed.) The new advisor guidebook: Mastering the art of advising through the first year and beyond (pp 47-48). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.
Freitag, D.A. (2011). Freedom to choose: Advisor classifications and internal identities. Academic Advising Today 34(1).
Gordon, V. N., Habley, W.R., Grites, T.J. (2008). Academic advising. A comprehensive handbook. 2nd Ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
NACADA. (2005). NACADA statement of core values of academic advising. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Core-Values.htm.
Theories and approaches applicable to academic advising. (n.d.) NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site:
the above resource using APA style as:
Freitag, D. (2011). Creating a Personal Philosophy of Academic Advising. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: