Student Success means different things to different advisors. Student success can start with effective academic advising. Establishing a good relationship with the students you advise is an important step toward the students accessing the information and resources needed for success. Be sure to make eye contact with students during advising sessions. Students may ask for clarification around the policies and procedures on your campus. Make sure that you try to answer all of their questions. Some of the answers to their questions around policies and procedures may not always sit well with the students but it is extremely important that we must always provide accurate information regarding the policies and procedures and the student code of conduct for the institutions of higher learning that we represent. When in doubt, let the student know that you will consult with your supervisor for the answer and follow up with the student. It is okay not to know the answer to every question that a student has. It is not okay to give inaccurate information nor is it okay to tell the student you will consult a supervisor for the answer and follow up with the student and never follow up with the student.
Having on-going communication with your students throughout the semester will provide support to the students as well as case management. Be mindful that incoming students will need a lot more support than the juniors and seniors. We all want the incoming students to start off on the right foot. Patience is the key with new students. They are trying to figure out where their classes are and adjust to the way things are done in higher education. Try to end advising sessions on a good note when possible. Schedule a follow up face-to-face session with each student. Email check-ins throughout the semester are good when face-to-face check-ins are not possible.
To kick off the Fall 2019 Semester, here are three helpful ways advisors can leverage campus connections to support first-year students:
Know the support services and resources that are available to students and where they are located on campus. Additionally, know where the various departments are located on campus.
It is important to connect with other professionals in student affairs and with campus resources to develop the relationships that help support students. Knowing the support services’ and resources’ locations and phone numbers is critical when referring students to other departments. Sometimes, offices change locations on campus, so it’s a good idea to check your information for accuracy at the start of each academic year. Similarly, departments may change locations on campus so it is imperative that you familiarize yourself with the various academic departments on campus.
Students get frustrated when they are given the run-around and receive incorrect information regarding where resources are located on campus and/or what help they can expect to receive at those resources. Providing students with correct information on campus resources saves them precious time.
Partnering with student affairs to collect key contact information saves students the trouble of trying to figure out who they need to see to get certain things taken care of. It can be helpful to keep that information on hand to facilitate the referral process. You could also create a handout for students that list the contact information so that they do not always have to reach out to you for referrals.
Know the drop/add deadlines and how to view available (i.e. open) classes.
Collaborating with academic affairs and knowing how to view and navigate your institution’s course list is important in order to best serve students who register late and/or want to make changes to their schedules. It can also be helpful to teach students how to use course list themselves so that they can examine their options prior to advising sessions.
The deadline to drop/add classes comes and goes very quickly and is easy for students to miss if they do not receive reminders from advisors and other student affairs professionals during advising sessions. When considering dropping classes, students should be reminded of various credit load requirements. For example, most schools require undergraduate students to be enrolled in at least 12 credits to have “full time” status and qualify for financial aid. Most academic programs necessitate an average of 15 credits per semester to stay on track for a four-year graduation; certain STEM programs may require more. If you have advisees that are struggling to stay on track, it may be useful to discuss summer and/or winter course options.
Collaborating with the appropriate student affairs office at your institution to post signs around campus with the drop/add deadlines is a good way to provide a friendly reminder to students. You can also consider emailing the advisees on your caseload as various deadlines approach.
Make initial contact with advisees via e-mails and/or in-person meetings.
Establishing rapport with students is very important for student success. It is helpful to connect with advisees via e-mail and/or in-person meetings to start building that rapport. At minimum, an e-mail can serve as an initial contact that introduces yourself and the services you provide. You can also use that e-mail to explain your process for scheduling advising appointments and invite students to come by for in-person meetings.
In-person meetings can enable you to get to know your students more so than is possible via e-mail. Whether through e-mail or in-person, touching base with your advisees at the beginning of the academic year lets them know you are invested in their success and that they can come to you with questions and concerns. Finally, it is of the utmost importance that any information you provide during this initial stage of the advising relationship is as accurate as possible. Students need to trust that you know what you’re talking about, or they won’t want to come to you for advising in the future!
Sharon T. Murphy, Ph.D.
University of the District of Columbia Community College
Alexis Foley Advisor
University of Maryland