Note:This is an article in a series celebrating NACADA 30th anniversary. In this series current NACADA members build upon the work done within the 1995 monograph, Advising as a Comprehensive Campus Process , as they highlight the important connections advisors make across campus.
Preparing Academic Advisors for Orientation Programs
Authored by: Casey Self and Therese Aguayo
Academic advisors play a significant role in campus orientation programs, interacting with prospective students and their parents and family members. While orientation programs at our various institutions may be coordinated through different offices, the overall goals remain consistent: transition of new students to campus. Programs which include academic content learning opportunities, including curriculum review, registration policies and procedures, and introduction to academic personnel, should include academic advising personnel. Beatty and Standing (1995) provide a strong overview of how academic advising should be connected to the overall planning and implementation of orientation programs including key campus relationships, specific outcomes, and general goals for academic advising at orientation.
In this article we will focus on two primary areas related to orientation and academic advising: preparation of academic advisors prior to participation with orientation programs, and an overview of potential content to be offered by academic advisors via a variety of delivery methods. Specific attention will also be provided on the appropriate inclusion of parents/family members in the academic content included in the orientation program.
External training for orientation programs may be provided by offices responsible for the coordination of campus-wide orientation programs. This training can set the tone for the orientation program and help advisors and resource partners from across campus understand the mission of orientation and set expectations for all staff who assist with orientation. General information should be given regarding orientation dates, programming that will occur, and a set agenda distributed with the start and end times for all planned activities and advisement. It is important that all college and departmental advisors know how much time will be allotted for advisement and where students and parents will go once they have completed the advisement portion of the program.
General orientation training for the advising community can be split into two separate training sessions. One session can be given for new advisors which can provide more in depth information on the overall process of orientation, including any programming occurring before or after the advising portion of the program. More experienced advisors can be given a less intensive training that provides scheduling updates and any changes to orientation policy and procedures. Training for orientation provides networking opportunities for advisors from different departments/colleges where they can discover how other units conduct the advising portion of orientation.
Best practice tip: Provide a Blackboard© site for advisors involved with the orientation process. This can be a valuable tool for communication and can be used to distribute scheduling updates and changes in policy. It can also be a valuable repository of orientation dates, agendas, university and college presentations, and accompanying materials.
Orientation is a cyclical function of advising that requires internal training for advising staff prior to its start. As orientation season nears, advisors often are caught up in the ongoing issues of continuing students, which are very different from the pressing concerns of incoming students. It is a time of year that requires a shift of focus and remembering that incoming freshmen do not understand how a college or university works. These new students have not acquired the vocabulary of university acronyms and do not understand the vernacular that advisors use every day. New student concerns center around building their first schedule and continuously asking themselves if they are making the right decisions.
Advisors can be prepared for orientation by creating an internal training session that gives advisors a clear understanding of what they will be asked to do at orientation and how they can best help students. This can entail information on program dates, staff scheduling, staff roles, and a comprehensive overview of all materials and presentations that will be provided to students. It is helpful if an advisor, or a small group of advisors, takes on the role of coordinating orientation for the unit. The coordinating advisor(s) can be responsible for the development of the advising presentation, scheduling of staff, and the development of all supplemental materials that the department/college’s students will receive during orientation. During training, the advising presentation should be offered to advisors in the same format that it will be delivered during the orientation session. This allows advisors time to provide feedback and note any modifications needed before the first orientation program.
Internal advisor training can build a sense of teamwork between advisors as they learn the different roles they may have during orientation, e.g., advisor, presenter, administrator, peer advisor supervisor, and data administrator. Orientation is an opportunity for professional development as advisors can assume responsibilities for presenting, coordinating staff, and developing presentations and materials.
Best practice tip: Consider creating an orientation binder for each advisor that includes copies of the advising presentation script, staff schedule, and any advising materials the students will receive during orientation. It is also beneficial to have appropriate placement scores readily available along with check sheets for various majors.
Advising supervisors play a pivotal role in establishing lines of communication with orientation and admissions staff. All advising supervisors should work together to set up a common notification process when course availability is running low or when technology issues provide barriers to the course registration process. It is also important that advising supervisors set a tone with their staff regarding the critical role orientation plays in connecting students to the institution and in establishing a relationship between students and their department/college. As orientation season progresses and students interact with other departments/colleges or change majors, supervisors should work across units to create processes that are consistent and as seamless as possible thus helping students navigate within the institution.
Best practice tip: Consider creating an Advising Administrators’ Board where advising administrators can meet on a regular basis to discuss critical issues that have an impact across all departments/colleges
Best practice tip: Orientation can develop advisor skills in management, coordination, staff training, presentations, public speaking, writing skills, and networking across campus. Delegating responsibilities can encourage professional growth and development within your advising staff.
Advising Related Content During Orientation Programs
Personnel within academic advising offices must identify appropriate content to be shared with new students and parents during orientation programs. In many instances, the time allotted for academic advising related material and activities during orientation is limited, therefore advisors must prioritize material to be covered during orientation and determine what may be provided in alternative formats. Additionally, identifying appropriate advising personnel to participate in orientation programs is key to a successful orientation experience. Options for involvement may include professional, faculty, graduate student, and peer advisors, along with various advising support staff. Some academic advising units may hire temporary staff and faculty to assist with orientation programs to supplement full-time staff. Regardless of who represents an advising unit at orientation, each individual must receive the appropriate training, preparation, and information if each is to adequately represent not only the academic advising office, but the institution as a whole.
Many academic advisors are challenged with determining the specific information that will be provided during orientation, and what might be provided later utilizing alternative delivery strategies and/or technology. Advisors often believe they need to deliver as much information to students and parents as time allows. However, students and parents can become overwhelmed when too much information is provided. Advisors should consider what information students must know to accomplish the goal(s) for the advising session. In other words, if the primary goal is to register students, then focus on providing the information students need to register for their first semester. Let students and parents know that the goals and objectives of academic advising go well beyond registration and tell them how advisors will address these goals and objectives in the future.
Suggestions for academic advising related content during orientation programs include:
Overview of academic advising office, services provided, advising requirements, and appropriate contact information
Introduction of academic advising and department/college personnel
Calendar or timeline of academic advising activities with suggested times for advising interactions throughout the academic year
Overview of general curriculum requirements, program requirements, program standards
Expectations of students and academic advisors (academic advising syllabus)
Information related to registration procedures if students will be registering as part of orientation program
Parent related issues such as: overview of the parent role and appropriate communication with advising offices that promote student success, strategies parents can use to support their student, confidentiality/FERPA, etc.
Again, when there are time constraints at orientation, it is crucial to determine the absolutes for inclusion during the orientation session and what might be covered utilizing other strategies over the course of the academic year.
Best practice tip: Use of technology can enhance delivery strategies for communicating important academic advising related information at orientation. Some institutions have created Web readings/ homework for students and parents where they are expected to read and respond before or after attending orientation. Another successful strategy is to provide supplemental written and presentation materials on compact disks, DVDs, or flash drives which may be provided to students in lieu of excessive amounts of paper. The use of technology is especially effective when academic advising interaction during orientation is limited.
Student Orientation Preparation and Follow-up
Many orientation programs occur weeks or perhaps months before students arrive on campus for their first semester. Thus academic advisors may want to have a communication strategy in place for students before they attend orientation, and for the time in between orientation and the first day of classes. E-mail listservs, phone calls, official letters, Blackboard groups, Facebook© groups, and advising wiki pages are all possible strategies for communication with students. Share your advising communication plan with students and parents during the orientation program along with expectations regarding their participation.
Working with Parents at Orientation
Successful orientation programs and academic advising strategies must include regular, intentional interactions with parents and family members. Education regarding appropriate roles and strategies for parents is vital if we are to work in partnership with parents for the overall benefit of their students. NACADA provides several resources and strategies for working with parents in the Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources at: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/tabid/3318/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/114/article.aspx
The changes occurring in our academic environments mean that preparing for orientation continues to be a challenge for academic advisors. Each year academic advisors should review previous strategies and implement improvements. Orientation is, in many cases, the student and parents’ first experience with academic advising. Therefore, careful training and preparation must be completed to ensure that academic advising personnel are prepared to represent not only the academic advising unit, but also the institution as a whole. As technology improves and orientation programs adapt, academic advisors must evaluate advising strategies and goals each year if we are to provide positive experiences for students, parents, and academic advisors.
Casey Self, Executive Director
University College Academic Advising
Arizona State University
Therese Aguayo, Director
University College Academic Advising Tempe campus
Arizona State University
Beatty, J.D. and Standing, R. (1995). Academic advising and orientation. In Glennen, R.E. & Vowell, F. N. (Eds.) Academic Advising as a Comprehensive Campus Process [NACADA monograph no. 2]. pp. 95-99. Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.
Menezes, M. D. (2005). Advisors and parents: Together building stronger advising relationships. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/tabid/3318/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/114/article.aspx
What academic advising related orientation materials should be shared with both students and parents at the same time, and what should be shared separately?
What other department/college personnel should participate in academic advising orientation programs?
What new student information could be provided at other times utilizing technology and other creative strategies?
How can orientation training be enhanced to meet the needs of different advisor populations? In example, new vs. experienced advisors, or faculty advisors vs. professional advisors
How can planning for orientation become a professional development activity for academic advisors on our campus?
Cite this using APA style as:
Self, C. and Aguayo, T. (2009).Preparing Academic Advisors for Orientation Programs. Retrieved -insert today's date- from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Preparing-academic-advisors-for-orientation-programs.aspx