Academic advising in higher education should be a staple for every school with a large student body to ensure that the needs of these students are met. Whether your school is figuring out how to increase college retention or improve its overall performance, academic advising is a pretty viable solution and a method that will never go out of style. Students always need help when they are juggling the pressures of busy schedules, college-level courses, strict program requirements, work, and other commitments. Special attention from an advisor could make the difference that a student needs to complete their degree and graduate.
In this article, find out why academic advisors are important to a healthy college or university community and learn some tips for improving the presence and quality of academic advising in your institution and the benefits of university partnerships in supporting students.
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Why Academic Advising Is Important
Academic advisors can be highly useful to students who have questions about their future at a school and should not be seen as only a last resort. The higher education journey can be strenuous and isolating, with many students feeling like they are just a drop in the ocean. Guidance, expert information, and stellar research are crucial for successful students at any stage of the process. Advisors can be useful on a student’s first day at a college or university, as well as years into their tenure.
A university can have their own services or team up with a company that provides their own team, such as BeMo Academic Consulting. For those looking at competitive programs, outsourced academic consultants can provide tailored and private sessions for undergrad admissions and graduate school application help. A student may know where they are going, but a BeMo consultant is the compass or GPS that can lead their path. They are another keen set of eyes on their file that can share knowledge of specific admission requirements and be wholly invested in any given student’s educational career. Showing a student that someone cares about their studies and is working diligently to ease their stress can be the small difference between them staying to complete their degree or dropping out entirely.
How Does Academic Advising Help Students?
Many students, especially in their first few years, often do not have the knowledge of university policies or how to navigate their program as efficiently as possible. Advisors and academic consultants can help students find their footing, register for the right courses at the right time, and plan their degree based on their particular needs. This whole process is about making the student feel less overcome by the pressure cooker effect of higher education, especially if they are enrolled at a university with thousands of other students.
By Providing a Personal Touch
In a larger school, advising becomes a personal experience that is unique to the student and their individual goals. An advisor’s office can be a place where a student is not afraid to ask questions, bounce ideas around, or just have a simple conversation about their education. Implementing regular academic advising or consulting services could be a large part of a school’s various dropout prevention initiatives, thus reducing the number of students who lose faith in their university’s ability to give them fulfillment. If a student wants to switch their program or career field but is not sure how to do so, a great advisor will try their hardest to make the transition seamless and avoid a potential loss.
A key aspect of academic advising, and perhaps one of the most important, is the human-to-human connection it offers students. As mentioned, students are often enrolled in higher education during their formative years when much of their future is still up in the air. Many competitive disciplines, such as medical school or law school, require an early start and a large amount of planning. Contact with admissions experts, whether on a regular basis or not, can reassure students about their chosen path and prepare them in advance for the application process. Encouraging words or useful feedback can change the perspective of a student who is feeling overwhelmed, especially if they do not feel that same support at home or with their peers.
Connecting with an advisor is also a great opportunity for students to get to know some of the faceless employees working for the school they attend. Students should still be prepared for any meetings with questions and concerns they have, but the advisor or consultant will bridge the gap between the student and the seemingly intimidating body that is the university. Receiving guidance from a dedicated academic advisor or consultant could have lasting positive effects that not only alter a student’s standalone university experience, but the rest of their lives as well.
By Offering Guidance
Most students in higher education are young people making big decisions for their futures. Having an advisor by their side can lead them to work/study or co-op programs that will provide for excellent professional experience. Many schools offer these streams, but they may not be as obvious to someone entering a higher education institution for the first time. Occasionally, there may be too many possibilities to choose from and the advisor’s role is to narrow them down to the program that fits the student’s qualifications.
Advisors may also link students to potential grants, scholarships, or awards that could alleviate financial stress and greatly improve their university experience. One of the most common reasons for higher dropout rates is financial instability or an inability to pay tuition fees. An advisor can direct students to funding opportunities they may not have been aware of. They can perform the research that the student may not have the time to do and return to them with the most pertinent results to serve them promptly and effectively.
How to Ensure the Quality of Academic Advising
While most higher education institutions offer academic advising, the quality of their services is what differs from school to school. Putting effort into improving these services can retain students and thus lower dropout rates. Here are some concrete ways to improve the level of academic advising at your school:
1. Ensure that academic advising services are promoted
The first step is to let students know that there are advising services present for them on campus. Even upper year students can struggle to find where and how they can access academic advising services at their school. Others feel that advising is a last-minute measure, only to be used in times when their grades have slipped or they have registered for courses too late. They may believe that asking for help means they are not independent students, that they have failed in some way, or that it is an insult to their intelligence. Inform them often that this is not the case by presenting academic advising as a positive. From the very start of their studies at orientation, show them how to seek out academic advising to help map out their degrees, learn about potential co-op programs early, or get accustomed to their new surroundings. Academic consultants and admissions experts could help at any stage of the process and get students on the road to success early on in their degrees. Partnering with an academic consulting firm could be a selling point when recruiting or introducing new students to your campus. Periodically sending newsletters, communications, email messages, and announcements are some methods of getting the word out about the academic advising services you offer on your grounds.
2. Ensure that hired staff is dedicated, empathetic, and knowledgeable
An advisor’s job is to be sensitive to the needs of the students they are working for, while also having the right amount of training or experience to help them. Employing the right staff members is vital to the success of any academic advising practice. Students often come to them in a vulnerable state and with concerns about their future, and an academic advisor or consultant should respond compassionately while also providing helpful information. Advisors can be specialized to a particular department, program, or faculty to address the needs of those students. There are often too few advisors for the number of students in a university. If advisors are overworked and unsatisfactory in their purpose to guide students, both the students and the school will suffer as a result. That being said, academic advisors are not superheroes; they can’t take care of everything. Should they not be able to help in a specific situation, they may point the student to other university resources that will. That is a perfectly acceptable form of advising in a higher education setting. It's also another good reason to consider partnering with a trusted external resource, such as BeMo, for your academic advising needs.
3. Ensure that academic advising is accessible and can address a diverse set of needs
The services provided by advisors should be as inclusive as possible, so students do not feel alienated by your school. Students will abandon advising, and maybe higher education altogether, if they feel academic advisors do not represent them or have their best interests at heart. There are no limits or rules for how academic advising could be performed. Offering advising services in multiple formats, such as in-person sessions, online meetings, academic consultants, Q&A workshops, and written guides, to name a few, will ensure that everyone has a chance to access advising. Always have the option for students to submit their feedback on your academic advisors and advising procedures, so that any issues or recurring complaints can be dealt with in a timely manner.
4. Ensure that advising also considers the student’s future beyond the degree
Despite the title, academic advising is not solely for academic purposes. Many advisors can also play the role of or work in tandem with career coaches to plan out a student’s path beyond the university walls. This is an important aspect to be considered when offering these services in an institution. Higher education and the workforce often go hand in hand. Academic consultants are a great option, as they often have experience themselves in the higher education process as a student, are trained in maneuvering the admissions process, and can lead students to their dream careers. If a student is interested in applying to graduate school at your institution or elsewhere, an academic consultant can provide whatever support they require in whatever domain the student is interested in. Focusing on a student’s future beyond the undergraduate degree can make a student feel like they are working toward an end goal with the help of a trusted advisor.
Focusing on academic advising in your higher education institution comes with additional benefits that affect everyone involved. Academic advising is a very plausible approach for both attracting students and retaining them. Quality academic advising can be promoted as a perk for new students during orientation events. For student success, hiring academic consulting services is one of the best college recruitment strategies a school can implement to see real results.
With a safety net to fall back on, students will feel more positively about the education they are pursuing and have a better experience studying with your institution. Reception and reviews of your university’s performance will improve, which can ultimately raise the school’s overall ranking. If academic advising is satisfactory, among all other facets of the university, more students will then be attracted to enroll.
With proper academic consulting, students who seek out help will ultimately perform better in their courses and graduate with a higher GPA. If the student is interested in applying to highly competitive programs, such as medical school or law school, a consultant’s help can facilitate this process as they complete their undergraduate degree. An advisor could also act as a potential reference when submitting admissions documents, such as medical school reference letters, because they can be so deeply involved in a student’s academic progress.
On the financial side, both the university and students save time and money in the long run when services are offered on school grounds. Students are usually already paying their respective tuition and fees. They should not need to pay extra to acquire high-quality support for their degree. If they wish to hire a private college advisor or some other professional to work specifically with them, it should be an optional decision, but you can appeal to them by offering the best available services. Meanwhile, if academic advising helps students stay enrolled, this brings in consistent income to the university, which could then be funneled into some of the other best practices for student retention you may want to implement.
Advising is also beneficial because it is a feature of higher education that can be delivered in a multitude of ways to basically any kind of student group imaginable. Advisors themselves are varied, ranging from grad school admissions consultant to MBA essay consultant. It is important to tailor the types of advisors you need to the programs prevalent at your institution. A business-focused school will likely need more advisors who are experts in business, for instance. Try to discern the specific needs of your students and work around them to uncover the best strategy for your school.
An academic advisor in a higher education setting wears many different hats. They can help with course registration, plan out degrees, point to funding opportunities, and more, all in the name of helping students achieve their dreams. Consultants representing BeMo can kickstart the graduate school application process, prepare students to take on worthwhile careers, and push them to be the best they can be.
For colleges and universities, strengthening the presence of advising is one of the most direct ways to improve the culture on their campus. If the goal of any higher education institution is to set students up for their professional futures, let advisors validate that process. Dedicated advisors leave a lasting impact on students, and as a result, your school will too.
1. If a student is doing well in the program and has high grades, can they still make use of academic advising?
Absolutely. Advisors tend to also help with aspects of college life that have nothing to do with academic performance, such as work/study opportunities, university resources, career planning, course registration and more.
2. What are the qualities that make a good academic advisor or consultant?
Compassion, patience, and knowledge of their school are essential qualities that every academic advisor should embody. Students often come to them in vulnerable positions, and the advisors must provide the best quality advice in an empathetic manner.
3. Can an academic advisor be used as a reference for grad school applications?
Yes, given that you are permitted to use references who were not your professors. They may be one of the people who know the most about your goals and your academic journey, so they can provide a strong, tailored letter of recommendation for graduate studies.
4. How can academic advising and consulting services be used to attract students to a college or university?
If your institution has a specialized and large academic advising team that is a primary feature of the school, it could definitely be used as a selling point for potential students. If your school outsources academic consultants, they can easily be promoted as a distinctive feature of your school. Any way your school could raise a student’s comfort level pursuing their education with you should be advertised.
5. Why are advisors important for student retention?
Academic advisors can be a resource for students who are looking to make the most of their years with a college or university. Having someone who is helping them on their path and makes them feel supported will make them less likely to drop out. Advisors should do their best to assure students that they are on the correct path and assist them with any transfers if needed. Advisors can also lead students to life-changing financial support opportunities that may aid with the payment of fees.
6. What is the difference between academic advisors and academic consultants?
They have many similarities, as advising and consulting are used interchangeably at times. However, academic advisors are usually hired employees of the university itself. They tend to know more about specific programs and resources at their university to help their students internally, while academic consultants could come from a separate company hired privately by the school. Consultants can provide expert information on any aspect of admissions processes, exam prep, application documents, such as a medical school personal statement, and interview prep.
7. How do I promote academic advising or consulting services in my school?
One way is to announce the services at orientation proceedings to welcome new students. This will inform them immediately that there are people on campus who want to support them.
Other ways that could help spread the word are live and virtual events, workshops, social media posts, email blasts, newsletters, and classroom visits.
8. Can smaller colleges make use of academic advisors and consultants?
Yes, albeit likely in a smaller capacity. Smaller institutions, such as community colleges, can possibly make use of hiring outside sources or having guest spots with academic consultants to address various student needs.
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