The Secrets of a Great Academic Advisor

Listen to students. Let me repeat it again — Listen to students. If you plan and dream to become an outstanding academic advisor, you must make an effort to listen to what students have to say and want to talk about. The secret to being a great academic advisor is mostly listening and caring. I am not aware of any dedicated college professor who wants to make a difference in college students’ lives yet ignore advising. Be inspiring, be “there” for students, strive to provide the very best academic advising sessions you can possibly deliver to your students. Remember: In the end, education is all about students not you anyways.

In my career as a college professor, I’ve advised over one thousand students and the numbers keep increasing. In my academic advising sessions, I chat with students about classes, jobs, victories, defeats, more jobs and of course… careers. I have to admit that helping kids to succeed has been a great ride for both my advisees and I, that’s for sure. Having placed students in a large number of companies all across the United States has been a blessing to both my students and I. I pray that God keeps blessing me with the necessary enthusiasm and caring abilities that is required for advising college students with distinction. They do deserve our best, every time.

There are a number of ways that you can advise college students these days. In this article, I will share with you three ways that I’ve used, which have resulted in tremendous undergraduate and graduate student success. I do realize that my self-made methods are unorthodox but I promise… they work. Are you ready?

  1. Don’t start your advising in “advising” season. Academic advising doesn’t start in pre-registration.  It starts on day one when you decide to have an open door policy and make an effort to chat with students outside the classroom, sometimes even playing ping pong in the cafeteria informally. The idea that great academic advising is to take 15-20 minutes in mid-semester only is erroneous. What do I mean by that? Sure, creating a schedule for a student regardless of rank shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes per student. However, talking about careers many times can take 30 minutes sometimes longer. The former is precisely why “advising” students throughout the semester should be made a priority if you want to be known as an extraordinary academic advisor. I encourage and recommend that you take academic advising seriously and that you make an extra effort to helping pupils to achieve greatness in this world early on in the semester. One of the ways to accomplishing the former is by taking the initiative and being available.
  2. Make an effort to attend student and athletic events. This is exactly what I’ve said. You need to make sure that students realize that you legitimately care about what they do and what they are involved with. Attending campus events and supporting athletes by attending their home games is a great way to connect with students and attract them to having a longer conversation in your office later in the week. Students do appreciate college professors who they perceive care and are invested in their college life and professional development. It ain’t complicated, ladies and gents. If you think about it, excellence in academic advising is a mix of common sense combined with caring attitudes over and over again. You just have to do it! Listen to me: Make an effort to attend student and athletic events. That’s the right thing to do.
  3. Recruit and mentor a few students every semester. Students love to be mentored. Make sure that every semester you select a few students to work with you in your office. Teach and empower them. I guarantee you that by the end of the academic year, there will be a line of students wanting to be a part of your “advising” or shall we say, “mentoring” program. Empowering students to make decisions and learn one-on-one with a caring academic advisor produces big dividends, e.g., free publicity for the department and many times increases in enrollment. Why don’t we have more faculty-advisee advising experiences and mentoring opportunities in college campuses all throughout the United States ? I honestly don’t get it! We should provide these opportunities to our students. I most definitely do. You should strive to do it, as well.

If you plan and dream to become an outstanding academic advisor, you must make an effort to listen to what students want and have to say. The secret to being a great academic advisor is mostly listening. Do yourself a favor: Don’t start your advising in “advising” season. There is not enough time to do a superb job in advising if your advising starts in April or November. Make an effort to attend student and athletic events. Students do appreciate you making an effort to attend some of their events. Make sure to recruit and mentor a few students every semester. Part of our job as academic advisors is to inspire students. If you are serious about your job and care for your students, recruiting and mentoring students should be part of your operating procedures every semester. That’s what I say.