Academic advisors must walk a tightrope between two roles: Student affairs and academic affairs.
However, this doesn’t mean that advisors are no less partaking in student advocacy than the so-called “traditional” student affairs roles in residence life, orientation, or campus activities.
There are many common myths about academic advising that should be addressed so that students and student affairs professionals alike can make the most of their academic advising support systems.
Student affairs professionals can help students see that academic advisors aren’t there as just another roadblock that students have to appease; they’re here to help students, too! Support from other student affairs professionals towards academic advising is crucial for getting students excited about advising.
1. “All academic advisors do is register students for classes.”
This is the first myth I hear when I talk about my career with friends, family, and fellow student affairs professionals. But, the truth is that academic advisors do so much more!
Depending on the institution, advisors may:
- Discuss major exploration and alignment with post-graduation goals.
- Administer career exploration tests.
- Help students prepare for major exams by providing study materials, general exam information, and referrals to tutoring services.
- Assist students who are applying to competitive programs and graduate school by helping them submit strong applications and capitalize on opportunities for improvement.
- Create individualized plans of study.
- Provide students with advice on applying for (and succeeding within) internships, research programs, and independent studies.
- Act as a liaison between students and the institution’s offices of financial aid, admissions, and the registrar.
- Connect students with other resources on campus, such as counseling, student activities, and residence life.
…And so much more!
2. “Advisors are less hands-on than other student affairs professionals.”
Although I don’t hold a duty phone, my entire workday is still dedicated to students.
Similar to other student affairs professionals, advisors may:
- Help students through personal crises.
- Talk to concerned family members (only if it’s FERPA-approved of course).
- Answer panicked phone calls and emails from students during registration.
- Assist with difficult choices, such as major exploration and the decision to drop a class.
- Have difficult conversations with students regarding their GPAs and academic probations.
- Mediate student-student or student-faculty disagreements.
3. “Advisors are solely involved in academic affairs, not student affairs.”
Although where academic advising is officially housed varies from campus to campus, the work of advisors actually addresses goals related to both academic affairs and student affairs.
On the academic affairs side of things, advisors…
- Typically work independently, with 9-5 office hours.
- Focus on improving student graduation and retention rates.
- Talk to students about their classroom experiences — such as attendance, grades, and GPA.
- Are experts on academic policy and procedure.
From the student affairs side, advisors…
- Develop strong relationships with students.
- Collaborate with their career, student services, counseling, and financial aid teams for holistic student support.
- Work with many departments to address students’ needs.
- Discuss out of the classroom activities such as clubs, internships, and family responsibilities.
4. “Advisors are too busy with registration and/or disinterested in student affairs work.”
This myth couldn’t be further from the truth! Many academic advisors have been trained in student development theories through graduate school, previous work experiences, and other forms of professional development.
- From these experiences, many advisors understand the value of deconstructing student support silos to create comprehensive, supportive environments.
- On many campuses, advising is housed within student affairs, giving advisors an easy pathway for inter-office collaboration.
- For institutions that house advising within academic affairs, many advising offices will collaborate with orientation professionals, career services, admissions officers, and more.
- Advisors may be very busy during certain times of the year — such as registration, the end of the add/drop period, and the first day of the semester — but by planning ahead, they should be able to collaborate on events with other departments and committees.
5. “Meeting with academic advisors is an unnecessary drag.”
Support from other student affairs professionals towards academic advising is key. Other campus professionals’ attitudes towards advising can set the right tone for a student to make an appointment with their advisor.
- Research has shown that advisors can improve student satisfaction by helping students avoid taking extraneous courses, thus saving students time and money.
- Students who meet with advisors are more likely to enjoy their college experiences and find careers they enjoy after graduation.
- Advisors may help students explore their interests through supporting their independent studies, adding a minor or second major, and assisting with finding internships
So, how can SA pros help dispel these myths for students?
- Discuss with students the value of aligning their academic journey with their career plan in career services.
- Share the financial benefits of meeting with an academic advisor when a student visits financial aid.
- Share with advisors opportunities to participate within co-curricular classroom development: Clubs, recreation, intramural leagues, leadership opportunities, and much more.
- Promote opportunities for independent studies, internships, and research opportunities with advisors available within your office.
- Collaborate with your academic advising office for cross-departmental events. Ideas include a holistic career development fair, finals care package programs, or even a voter registration campaign.
- Promote academic and student affairs collaboration through combined efforts in planning convocation and graduation ceremonies.
- Ask advisors to fill opportunities to coach, referee, or advise student organizations.
- Discuss with advisors what individual students have shared with you about their academic experience, semesters taken off, and graduation progress.
- Include advisors on marketing materials about services available for current students.
- Combine efforts with the student’s academic advisor to support the student through a personal and/or academic crisis.
- Invite advisors to new student orientation to answer pressing students’ and families’ academic concerns.
By addressing these common myths, you’ll boost cross-campus collaborations and decrease stigmas. In return, greater communication and partnerships can tear down silos and support student development — our shared ultimate goal.
What other myths about academic advising do you think need to be busted? Tell us your thoughts @HelloPresence.