Characteristics of Advisor
Effective academic advisors…
…provide ACCURATE INFORMATION
…have a CARING RELATIONSHIP with students
- Making time in your schedule for students. One of the biggest complaints students have about advising is a lack of availability of their advisor. Having generous office hours and a maximum amount of time available to your students is important to them.
- Making enough time for each student. Explanations of policies and procedures should be thorough, and this takes more than a couple of minutes. Make enough time to properly evaluate a student’s problems.
- Encouraging students to come in early. Students should review their progress with you to detect problems while there is still time to get help and salvage a class or semester.
- Encouraging students to use advising time for varied reasons. Effective advising is both long-range planning as well as immediate problem-solving. For this reason, it is particularly effective to see each student individually once a term outside of registration periods.
- Leaving enough time for questions.
- Posting office hours. Accessibility means not only being available to students, but letting them know when and where they can find you. During advance registration, post a sign-up sheet where students can schedule appointments.
- Inviting students to stop by during office hours.
Providing ACCURATE INFORMATION
- Knowing about academic requirements. Having a knowledge of University requirements also means being thoroughly familiar with the academic requirements and policies of the College and your department.
- Understanding the reasons for academic requirements. In addition to knowing what the academic requirements are, you should be able to interpret and explain the rationale for those requirements.
- Knowing how to alter academic programs. In exceptional cases, students may need to modify or alter a program of study. You should understand how your area uses course substitutions, requests for waivers, placement tests and non-traditional credit.
- Knowing about the U of A’s academic resources. See section on campus resources available.
- Knowing where to refer students. You should know where to refer students you cannot help, providing a specific name and location when you refer. All sorts of resources for information and assistance are out there to help if you can connect students to them. In addition, you may wish to contact resource persons directly for information and advice about a particular situation. The Dean’s Office can assist you.
- Knowing about student affairs resources. Be familiar with college clubs, lecture series, concerts, and intramural sports.
- Checking when you don’t know. When in doubt, call the appropriate office or department for an answer.
- Seeing the big picture. You should remember that each piece of information you receive about or from a student should be interpreted in light of everything else you know.
- Providing the big picture. Give your students an integrated picture of the U of A courses, procedures, requirements and goals.
- Knowing about specific courses. As much as possible, be familiar with course content, instructors, size and type of testing.
- Knowing about opportunities relevant to the student. Help students become aware of opportunities such as internships, scholarships, new courses, and minors.
Having a personal and CARING RELATIONSHIP
with students means…
- Being sympathetic and empathetic. Listen with understanding to a student’s problems, including academic problems and problems relating to the college transition process. These problems are often interrelated. Listening gives you the opportunity to demonstrate personal warmth, respect and genuineness.
- Helping with problems. Help students resolve academic difficulties by directing them to appropriate sources. Share your own academic survival skills.
- Questioning student choices. Don’t just accept or endorse student decisions – ask students about their choice of courses, major and career in light of their goals, abilities and interests. Rubber stamp approval, even when choices meet prescribed requirements, does nothing to further a student’s understanding of a decision and does not expose him to available, perhaps preferable, alternatives.
- Personalizing the University. As a representative of the University, you do this whenever you assist students. Academic advisors offer a relationship to students that contribute to a personalized educational experience from orientation to graduation.
- Knowing each student. You should know your students well enough to be aware of individual academic and educational needs and have some ideas about how these needs can best be met. With the diverse population now attending the University, advisors must also be aware of family responsibilities, job obligations, etc. which impact on students’ academics.
- Making students aware that you want to help.
- Helping students adjust. Whether a student is coming straight from high school or resuming his education after some time away from school, the transition to college is often difficult. Be sensitive to this.
- Understanding students. Be aware of the developmental level of your advisees. For 18 year olds, social life is often the primary concern; for non-traditional students, family responsibilities may rate before academics.
- Being friendly and developing rapport. Establish friendly relationships by making sure your students know you are interested in them as people.
- Helping students be their best. Encourage your students to maximize their potential.
- Self-disclosing. Tell students about yourself as a person who is continually going through the process of becoming educated.
- Being realistic. Provide assistance to students by realistically helping them to assess their choice of major, careers and educational goals. False reassurance minimizes problems and sets students up for failure.
- Considering the student’s perspective. Try to understand student concerns from a student point of view rather than your own.
- Accepting individual differences. Just as every advisor on campus is different, so, too, is every student. Try to approach each student as unique in their needs, abilities, interests and goals.
- Being genuine. Be yourself and act naturally. Most students can tell if you’re playing a role or pretending to be interested.
- Checking your reaction. Exercise restraint when surprised, angry or resentful about something that a student says, whether the statement is about you, an academic problem, or a personal problem.
- Respecting confidential information. Keep to yourself information students tell you in confidence.
- Accepting student change. Be prepared to help students who revise or change their academic or career plans. If you are unfamiliar with the area of the student’s new direction, refer them to an appropriate advisor who can help. Be open to student exploration.
Taken (with modification) from Academic Advising, the 1993 faculty advising manual of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.