Academic advising training is a pinnacle method for student success in higher education. Professional development for academic advisors can lead to great benefits for their careers, as well as for the students they support and the institutions they work in. In an ever-changing higher education landscape, colleges and universities must adapt and constantly update their current processes. This extends to the training of their employees, particularly the advisors who encourage their students to succeed every day.
This article outlines the purpose and role of academic advising in a college or university and why academic advising is important to the flourishing of a school. It also goes over some helpful practices for improving training for academic advisors, one of the most prominent being university partnerships with academic consultants.
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What Is the Purpose and Role of Academic Advising?
At its core, academic advising in higher education is meant to help students graduate from their program, be the liaison between students and their university, and help them go on to satisfying careers. Many students in larger universities tend to be intimidated by reaching out to authority figures in their school, but advisors are meant to reduce stress, set goals, and ensure success. Advising fits into the larger mission of higher education institutions, which is to educate future generations. Therefore, they need proper training to make sure students are getting the best possible information and guidance. Student success in higher education is the backbone of any college or university and academic advising is one of the most important vertebrae in that spine.
Students need a place to voice their concerns, ask questions about their studies and learn to navigate college life. While there could be group sessions, academic advising is generally a personalized, tailored service that could make students feel a little less alone in their academic endeavors. To further assist students, the baseline duties of academic advisors also include analyzing student records, taking meetings in their schedule, being aware of institutional policies or procedures, and more. Referring students to the right university resources, departments, or services is also a crucial part of academic advising. They cannot take care of every concern but must direct the student to the correct place so that their concerns can be resolved. Training academic advisors will allow them to branch out from the baseline duties of their position, provide immaculate advice to students, and become well-rounded employees of your college or university.
Why Training Academic Advisors Is Important
Advisors would ideally be trained to have all the skills necessary to solve a student’s potential issues before they become detrimental to their academic progression. With dropout rates totaling about a third of all post-secondary students in the United States and Canada, dedicated academic advisors are more necessary now than ever.
In recent years, there has been a slow decline in interest in pursuing higher education due to many factors, including the wider availability of information and jobs over the internet. Academic advisors who are motivated by supporting students may be able to help reverse some of this downward trajectory, especially if they are trained specifically to address student needs. Students should feel comfortable meeting with an advisor whenever they need a roadblock removed, which will ultimately improve their experience studying at a university or college and help them see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Many students who drop out can be considered preventable losses due to not receiving the right amount of support they need, causing them to leave higher education or change schools. Additional support from academic advisors or other experts such as consultants is one of the best college student retention practices and could help prevent students from abandoning their programs.
Because higher education deals with an important period of students’ lives, the dedicated attention from an advisor could make a life-changing difference. For schools learning how to improve university performance, suitably training their employees and advisors could produce great results. Your school’s reputation will flourish due to the number of options for students looking for a school that cares about them. Having trained advisors will bring your school to the next level and make it stand out from others.
How to Train Academic Advisors Effectively
Training academic advisors requires dedicated time and attention, like any other job. It is also a continuous process not limited to an employee’s onboarding. The higher education landscape is changing quickly all the time, and training will need updates, even for your most experienced advisors. If you want your school to deliver high-quality advising, there must be a distinct effort made to enhance advisors’ ability to perform and stay up to date. As this will be one of the best college growth strategies, your performance as an institution will improve, and your students will thank you.
Here are some concrete tips for how to ameliorate training for academic advisors that will have lasting benefits:
Focus on the Qualities Necessary for the Job
Before the training, consider the hiring process for academic advisors. When looking for talented academic advisors, it’s important to acknowledge the general qualities it takes to support students in your institution. Superior communication skills are key to building relationships with students who need help. Empathy is needed to understand student issues and see everything from their perspective to better resolve their queries.
Academic advisors need to be able to thrive in a diverse environment, where many different types of concerns will be addressed, and provide helpful, objective advice. Meanwhile, advisors also need to be extremely detail-oriented and organized. They are faced with multiple student files and situations each day and must be able to keep track of all of them to provide the best possible support. Not every applicant will have mastered every single one of these traits when they come in the door, but the right training program could help supplement where they are lacking and produce some excellent results.
Building on these qualities, the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) details their core competencies when training academic advisors. They focus on three distinct components:
- The conceptual component covers mainly what the advisor needs to know and understand to help students effectively. It is the context necessary for advisors to deliver the best-quality work. These include the history of academic advising in higher education, strategies to approach academic advising, theory relevant to the career of advising, and the creation of equitable and inclusive environments, among others. This component teaches the basics of the craft and is the perfect start to any training module for academic advisors.
- The informational component covers all the knowledge advisors need to succeed in their specific role, particularly in terms of institutional material. Here, anything specifically related to your school, such as its history, mission statement, values, and campus culture would be pertinent. Knowledge of curriculum, programs, degrees, academic requirements, and campus resources are vital to the position’s training. The legal aspects of academic advising, such as privacy and confidentiality, would also fall into this category. It is important to touch upon any information related to the needs of your school’s student population gathered through data, surveys, or feedback.
- Finally, the relational component harkens back to the skills of empathy and communication needed to succeed in this field. Academic advisors paying attention to the quality of sessions they are having and their relationship-building with students is fundamental to this component. Any part of goal setting and problem solving related to the interpersonal skills needed for the position are listed here as well. This component is about the current state of academic advising and what its potential could be. Assisting in the development of academic advising practice and what its future looks like should always be on the mind of an advisor.
Colleges and universities should incorporate all three of these components heavily when training advisors to ensure that students are receiving the necessary support as they complete their degrees.
Partnering with Academic Consulting Services
Engaging in a partnership with an academic advising company, such as BeMo Academic Consulting, could be a valuable way to help train academic advisors to be the best they can be. If you’re wondering how we can help your university or college, look no further than the gift of world-class education. Academic consultants are experts in the field of admissions to highly competitive programs in tertiary education, such as medical school, law school, and more. As an example, they can complement your academic advising team by further assisting students with how to choose a medical school to continue their education, interview prep for the chosen schools, and application documents, such as their personal statement and CV. Academic advisors may be knowledgeable about the school that they work in, but working in tandem with consultants can be useful for students, who will be able to reach the consultants online at any time. In the process, students are also saving time and money while following their dreams.
In addition to providing skilled admissions prep for your students, BeMo could also provide training and other perks for your staff, all in the name of student success. Your advisors could benefit from career counselling certification and training to advance their careers. Essentially, you are giving them an opportunity to excel at your university and explore everything this career has to offer. They could learn skills and participate in other aspects of college administration, such as the best college recruitment strategies, that will make them more well-rounded employees of the school. Being trained in various admissions screening processes and guidelines as well as the recruitment of new students for the next season is the perfect accompaniment to their role as academic advisors. With BeMo, it is also possible for advisors to experience curriculum, program, and course development to increase their capability as advisors even more. To do their job effectively, advisors need support and room to grow, just like the students in their charge. A partnership with professionals dedicated to student success, such as those at BeMo, can be a great training method for academic advisors working in higher education settings.
Additional Professional Development Opportunities
In addition to BeMo, professional development opportunities go hand in hand with advisor training. People never stop learning, even with years of experience under their belt, and job training should be continuous as well. One of the top job satisfaction factors is the opportunity for growth within an organization. Thankfully, a school typically has multiple moving parts, and various ways exist for an advisor to grow within an academic institution. Working in a school, they are around students who are learning all the time, so why can’t they benefit from that as well? Continuing education as a whole is one of the most notable training and development activities for employees. Therefore, a college or university is the perfect employer to offer those perks to further improve an advisor’s training. Advisors will stay on top of their training and can always look toward learning something new, should they desire it.
Some examples of professional development opportunities that exist right in your school:
- Shadowing: shadowing is a great tool used in multiple fields. Advisors could shadow fellow advisors with more experience to learn from them. They could also shadow other professionals in the university to get a sense of what they do on a daily basis to support students.
- Guided mentorship opportunities: mentorship opportunities are also important for advisors to receive their own kind of advising. Having a mentor that they can trust equips advisors to support students while increasing their comfort level working on campus. This mentor could also keep them accountable and make sure their development goals are being met.
- Feedback: constant communication between advisors and their superiors is paramount for both parties to see results. Feedback systems are crucial to the success of any institution, and academic advisors and other staff are no exception. Hearing their concerns about their training will help improve the process for future hires and current employees.
- Interdepartmental encounters: if advisors have a particular specialty, department, or faculty, they could be encouraged to learn about others to widen their scope of knowledge. The more they know about your college or university, the greater the chance of being helpful to students in need.
- Freedom to pursue their own initiatives: let advisors step out of their box and pursue whatever interests they may have while working for you. As they learn, their confidence will grow and so will their work ethic. Frontline staff often have the best ideas for improving processes: giving them permission to develop their own systems will make them feel respected and valued.
- Marketing: an advisor may also be interested in the marketing aspect of higher education, which lends itself to learning about how to increase student enrollment, web design, social media, and graphic design. Advisors could become essential school ambassadors during recruitment season by participating in both online and in-person recruitment events. Informing prospective students on the signature features of your school will not be super difficult because they have already acquired that knowledge in their advisory training.
These are just some of the measures that could be taken to improve academic advising training and allow advisors the opportunity to grow.
It may seem evident that training employees is vital for the success of any organization, but an advisor’s job requires them to have an encyclopedic knowledge of university information and to be able to transmit this in a compassionate manner to their students. They may be handling a students’ academics, but they are also handling their futures. It is a fragile undertaking that only trained and delicate hands should undertake.
In the wake of strong dropout rates and lower interest in higher education, properly trained advisors have the potential to keep it all together. Whether it is through a partnership with academic consulting firms, professional development programs, or brushing up on what qualities are truly necessary for the job, steps should always be taken to make an advisor the most useful they can be for student success.
1. What is the purpose of academic advising in higher education?
Academic advisors are the link between the student and the intimidating body that is the university. Even the most disciplined students may need guidance at times, and that is where advisors come in. They will provide the necessary knowledge about facets of the school that the student will probably not be aware of and direct students to the correct department if they cannot solve the issue themselves. Academic advising is also one of the most efficient ways to get more students to visit career services.
2. What is the goal of training and development for academic advisors?
The goal of training and development for academic advisors is for them to keep working consistently on their craft and not get too comfortable in a higher education industry that changes very quickly.
3. What are some of the essential qualities and skills academic advisors should have/be trained on?
When it comes to personality traits, communication skills and empathy are definitely big ones for this job. When an advisor is addressing a student’s concerns, they should do so in a way that is perfectly clear and without judgment. Students want a warm and welcoming presence when discussing matters regarding their education, so an academic advisor’s office should provide them with that environment.
As for more specific skills, computer skills are always important. Knowledge of any procedures, departments, courses, and other university features is a large undertaking, but one that is certain to be helpful in supporting students. NACADA provides a comprehensive list of such skills as part of their three core competencies for advisors.
4. What are some benefits of academic advising training?
When employees are trained and confident in what they do, with the freedom to explore their interests, that energy will transmit to the students they support. Training academic advisors could be a student recruitment and retention strategy for schools looking to improve in those areas. When exploring how to increase graduation rates, your institution should implement a team of trained professionals dedicated to fulfilling the school’s purpose of supporting student education.
5. What are some examples of ways academic advisors could develop professionally?
Anything that enhances their performance as academic advisors is a serviceable example. Shadowing, mentoring opportunities, branching out to new departments or specialties, and learning more of the hard skills that will help them with their position are all reasonable ways for advisors to grow in your institution.
6. Who could be potential shadows for academic advisors at my institution?
It really depends on what the advisor wants to learn. If they want to further brush up on their advising skills, they could shadow a fellow advisor who has more experience or works in another department. If they want to learn more about recruitment or marketing, they will shadow someone from one of those teams, in that case. They could also learn a lot from outsourced academic consultants about the ins and outs of their job. There are many options for shadowing on a college campus.
7. What is the purpose of BeMo’s university partnership program?
BeMo partnerships are meant to benefit everyone involved, such as students, employees, and the school as a whole. Staff members, like advisors, would have access to career growth opportunities that will only further their professional development and make them better employees of the college or university.
8. What is the difference between academic advisors and BeMo’s academic consultants?
Academic advisors are typically employed by a college or university to serve the students at that specific school and be aware of their policies, programs, requirements, etc. They may also be knowledgeable about career planning and counselling for the students who attend their university.
Academic consultants tend to work for a separate company and are outsourced by the university to assist with consulting services. They can help students from different academic backgrounds and are available 7 days a week. Consultants are trained in admissions to highly competitive programs, such as medical school, law school, pharmacy school, nursing, veterinary studies, and more. They are experts on the application demands of tertiary education, such as standardized tests like CASPer, medical school personal statements, and interview skills, among others.
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