Academic Advising Resources

The Crunch Is Over... Now What?

Marsha Miller

Kansas State University

NACADA Assistant Director, Resources & Services

Each term there is a magic moment when advisors realize that 'drop and add' has slowed to a trickle and enrollment for next term is a few weeks away. Suddenly there's some quiet time for non-teaching advisors who have spent weeks functioning in 'high demand' mode. Now what? How can advisors best use 'downtime' to remain motivated and energized?

First, debrief. Astronauts do it; emergency personnel do it; why not advisors? Sit down with your colleagues and discuss what went right and what issues need to be addressed before the next high stress time. What information would help you function more effectively? Look for patterns and delineate what issues, if addressed, could make a difference. Then ask 'What can we do to make it happen?' and take some of the precious downtime and research.

  • Would an on-line student orientation help provide information to students in a more timely manner? Look at the Clearinghouse on-line orientation sites to see what others have done. 
  • Would on-line advisor resources and training help advisors stay abreast of changes? Check out the links to electronic advisor publications linked from the Clearinghouse
  • Would it be helpful to know enrollment patterns for the students you advise? What student group makes the most schedule changes? What characteristics best predict students who will change majors? How can you best predict students who will end up on probation? Are placement test scores the best predictor for your students? High school GPA? Time of initial enrollment? Discover which office keeps the data, e.g., Institutional Research, the Registrar, a departmental Advising Center ? Then, with research questions in hand, visit with staff in that office. Ask where to find data for previous years and how best to pull it together to answer your questions.
  • Would connecting with another department help smooth things for you and your students? Visit with other departments, e.g., athletics, disability services, career services, financial aid, etc. Talk to staff members and determine what interventions work best with the students they serve. Then discuss how you can best work together for student benefit.
  • Are you like the 'little old woman who lived in the shoe'? Do you have so many advisees that you just don't know what to do? What is the 'normal' advisor to advisee ratio for advising situations similar to yours? Begin research of advising ratios in the Clearinghouse and build your case. Check out the latest national statistics for academic advising in the Clearinghouse. Then find out which institutions your campus considers as 'peers' and check their advising Web sites for contact information. Start a dialog with advisors at these institutions (or campuses within your athletic conference) to discover how your advising situation stacks up. Compile your research into a report that can be shared with campus constituencies.  
  • Which courses are 'high risk' for your students? Ask your Registrar for the grade percentages of these courses.Look at high-risk courses(those classes with a 30 percent rate of grades of D, F, and Withdrawals as defined by Supplemental Instruction )What is your campus doing to support students in these courses? Check out the Clearinghouse's Academic Support links to determine if there are other ways your campus can help students. Report your findings to those who can make change happen and make lists of support resources you can give to students enrolled in these courses. 
  • Use the time for professional development .NACADA sponsors national, regional and state events at various times throughout the year that help you develop professionally and energize your advising. Can't leave campus? Check out the on-line opportunities offered through the graduate certificate and masters degree in academic advising. Courses are self-paced within a semester timeframe so you can work well ahead during your downtime.
  • Use the time to research 'Wouldn't It Be Cool' projects.Conversations that begin with the words “wouldn’t it be cool if..?” can spark research projects that help advisors and students alike. Think 'out of the box' and make a real difference on your campus! 

These are but a few of a multitude of scenarios that can transpire after an advisor debriefing session. Look at your campus situation and pick a proactive research project for your downtime that can help you better serve students. Embarking on a research project is invigorating. Too often when we think of research we envision a statistician crunching numbers in a dusty office. Don't let this mental image stop you.  When advisors use downtime to research, they find practical solutions to campus issues. Make you next downtime the time to 'Research and Renew!'

Authored by: Marsha Miller
Kansas State University
NACADA Assistant Director, Resources & Services

Cite the above resource using APA style as:

Miller, M.A. (2004). The crunch is what? Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site

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