Academic Advising within a higher education institution has a very special place in the life of the adult student. Many graduate level students are non-traditional, and are going back to school during extremely busy times in their lives and/or not so busy times due to the economy.
From getting married, working full time, and raising children, and/or lack of employment, it is of utmost importance that the academic advisor has the ability to understand and relate to the adult student.
Here are my favorite top 5 tips for academic advising in an ever changing and fast paced world:
1. Share Your History and Expertise (if possible): Should you be given the opportunity to provide academic advising within an experienced field of your own, take it and run with it. Academic advisors who have the ‘been there done that’ background have a tremendous amount to offer a student on a professional level from two lenses: experience and knowledge. The personalized experienced advisor can truly make a difference in the lives of their students. Advisors can provide referrals, mentor, share invaluable tips, and will be able to create an ongoing bond due to the commonalities shared. I do believe there are amazing academic advisors who do not share the same career background. However, having that personal knowledge and experience to share with students can provide for life changing outcomes.
2. Be Pro-Active: Reach out to your students before a problem arises. Check early for fires and put them out immediately. It is imperative to assure that students are on the right track and do not run into any major issues. There are various rules that students must follow in regard to transfer credit, course requirements, time limits for degrees, petitions, and more. Most of this information is found in the university catalog; unfortunately, it is a book students usually don’t read. Familiarize yourself with these rules, check on student status, and make pro-active decisions as necessary.
3. Know Your Students: Get to know your students and understand whom they are and what they need. An undergraduate student will have explicitly different needs than a graduate student, as the 2 life stages are polar opposites. If you advise graduate students, be aware that daily life challenges take priority, and your role is to make the higher education process comprehensible, less stressful, and more meaningful.
4. Empathize: Since the age of technology, it seems quite difficult to get hold of a live person when calling a corporation or institution. Be real and be human! Empathize and show compassion. There is nothing unprofessional about showing you care in regard to what your assigned students are going through. An advisor who takes time to understand and listen (rather than hear) will truly create a comfort zone for students. Should you come to a point in which you don’t care; it is time to move on, as you will be cheating your students and yourself.
5. Go The Extra Mile: An advisor, should time be allotted, should go the extra mile if possible. If you see a job posted, have a good referral, or simply know something that will help your students, share it by all means (should your university allow)! A short email or phone call can turn into a job opportunity, a new networking contact or more. Keep giving… it benefits everyone.
An advisor is a provider, mentor and so much more. Life long relationships can be formed during these years. Enjoy the time and privilege to meet so many amazing people.