Although many of the advisors in Advising First aren’t “new advisors,” the information within this article could help an advisor meet and exceed a student’s needs. It’s well worth sharing and could possibly lead to helping a first year advisor better adjust to the role. – Ian R

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

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

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