College is a time of major transition for most students. Having just left the rigid organization of high school, or trying to re-enter the academic community after an absence, most college students are in a state of great change and in need of good advice.
Research has found that 75% of students enter college without having final decisions made about their careers, or even majors. Researchers Noel and Cuseo estimate that 50% – 75% of college students will change their major at least once during their college career. In their paper, Advising Students in Transition, Steele and McDonald found that some of the major reasons for students’ changing their major were: lack of information, outside influences, developmental issues, academic difficulties, or involuntary due to not being admitted to a program. All of these reasons for change are challenges that an academic advisor can assist a student through.
The answer to retaining and creating successful students is a strong academic advising program. Researcher C.L. Nutt states, “Academic advising is the very core of successful institutional efforts to educate and retain students. For this reason, academic advising … should be viewed as the ‘hub of the wheel’ and not just one of the various isolated services provided for students…academic advisors offer students the personal connection to the institution that the research indicates is vital to student retention and student success.” Students will stay in school and feel more positive about their college experience if they have access to academic advisors. Alexander Astin’s research, involving 200,000 students and over 300 institutions found that, “student faculty interaction has a stronger relationship to student satisfaction with the college experience than any other variable.” Using the academic advising services can be the difference between graduating or dropping out, as well as finding the right career for your particular strengths.
Functions of an Academic Advisor
An academic advisor is not someone who simply hands you a schedule and calls you in if your grades are slipping. Far from that, the reach and influence of an advisor is much greater and much more important. Advisors are the contact, the one person in the huge machine of college who advocates for the individual. In his book, Four Critical Years, A.W. Astin proposed the three main functions of an academic advisor.
1. Advisor as a humanizing agent, whose interaction with students occurs outside the classroom and in an informal setting, so that the student feels comfortable seeking the advisor out.
2. Advisor as counselor or mentor, who helps guide students through academic policy and procedure, offers advise and listens, and refers them to support when needed.
3. Advisor as educator or instructor, who teaches students strategies for success and helps them understand curriculum, the purpose of their academic program, and encourages problem solving, critical thinking, and decision making.
A central key to any student’s success in college, academic advisors don’t get enough good press. A simple visit to the office can make a far-reaching difference in the realization of one’s college endeavor.
Astin, A.W. Four Critical Years. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1977.
Cuseo, J. “Academic advisement and student retention: Empirical connections and systematic interventions.” NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Retrieved January 12, 2013 from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Retention.htm
Noel, L. “Increasing student retention: New challenges and potential” In L.Noel, D. Levitz, and Associates, Increasing Student Retention. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass, 1985.
Nutt, C.L. “Academic advising and student retention and persistence.” NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. Retrieved January 12, 2013 http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Retention.htm
Oertel, B. “Creating a case for a new academic advising model at winona state university: A review of the literature.” Retrieved January 12, 2013 from http://www.winona.edu/msuaasf/sia/academic%20advising%20lit%20review-oertel.pdf
Steele, G.E., and McDonald, M.L. “Advising students in transition.” In V.N. Gordon, W.R. Habley, and Associates (eds), Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000.