The foundational standard for professional academic advising is within the NACADA Core Values of Academic Advising , which are the following:
- Advisors are responsible to the individuals they advise.
- Advisors are responsible for involving others, when appropriate, in the advising process.
- Advisors are responsible to their institutions.
- Advisors are responsible to higher education in general.
- Advisors are responsible to their educational community.
- Advisors are responsible to their professional practices and for themselves personally.
In short, as an academic advisor, I must take responsibility for how I act toward and on behalf of my advisees, my institution, my colleagues, and the advising profession as a whole. I must treat each advisee with the highest amount of respect, and I strive to be personable, friendly, and approachable to my advisees. I must also work well with colleagues, faculty, administrators, other campus staff, parents, and the general public. It is also beneficial for me to be a member of a professional organization such as NACADA in order to network with other academic advisors, and to persist in learning about best practices in the profession.
As an academic advisor, I must value all advisees as individuals and not discriminate on the basis of any status protected by federal or state law. Advisees deserve individualized and personal attention from me as their advisor. In order to be effective, I practice “intrusive”  advising, which involves proactive communication with advisees and checking in on them on a regular basis. Intrusive advising also involves asking a lot of questions and taking initiative in providing my advisees with all of the information and guidance they need to be successful. I must take time to get to know about each of my advisees. This can include knowing their interests, hobbies, clubs, organizations, sports they may be involved, and where they may work. I like to ask a lot of open-ended questions when I meet with my advisees. This helps to build a sense of trust and rapport between us. When possible, I try to learn as much as I can about each advisee’s background and any potential issues they may be dealing with outside of the classroom and beyond the college campus. Basically, as an academic advisor, I am a mentor and guide to my advisees as they navigate through their programs of study and develop skills to help them to be successful in college and life in general.
At times, I must be both encouraging and firm with my advisees. There are times when my advisees may have a difficult day or not do well on an assignment, and I try to be an encouragement to these students. This encouragement can involve setting goals to do better on the next assignment and/or telling them to speak with the professor and seek tutoring for a class in which they are struggling. On the other hand, there are instances when an advisee is not performing well in classes on a consistent basis, and I must be firm with them, while setting realistic goals to improve their GPA. In many cases, this may involve having difficult conversations with them, perhaps about changing their major. Not only do I help my advisees with their programs of study and teacher licensure requirements, I am also at times a counselor and simply someone they can talk with if needed.
Other characteristics of effective academic advisors are strong communication skills, good time management, excellent utilization of technology, attention to detail, and practice of confidentiality. I strive to be an excellent communicator in both the spoken and written word, and try to communicate clearly to my advisees one-on-one and when in groups through email. When my students send me an email or leave a voicemail message, my goal is to respond to them on the same day and no later than the following work day. Sometimes, I use “attention getters” such as a remote control flying shark or funny memes when communicating important points to my advisees.
Good time management should be practiced by all advisors. I use the Microsoft Outlook calendar to organize each day’s appointments, while also having an “open-door” policy where my advisees can stop by my office without an appointment to ask questions. I want my advisees to feel like they can always ask me questions or talk with me, whether or not they have made an appointment.
To enhance my effectiveness, I use Microsoft Office and other technological tools. SSC Campus (TechConnect) helps me to better communicate with my advisees, to be well informed by relevant student data, and for making appointments. The data from SSC Campus assists me with identifying advisees who are “at-risk,” and with providing them the most effective and timely interventions. My advisees have told me that they really like the convenience of scheduling appointments through TechConnect, which is synced with my Outlook calendar. Tools such as Banner and Degree Works are also used to assist me with ensuring my advisees are staying on track and completing their degree requirements.
A strong attention to detail is crucial to academic advisors, and I check their programs of study multiple times each semester to ensure that I am giving them correct information at all times.
Academic advisors must always adhere to the FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) law; I must maintain confidentiality at all times with my advisees’ personal and academic information. With this being said, there are times when I must involve others such as professional counselors in the advising process, when appropriate.
Finally, academic advisors should always act in a manner to be a positive role-model to advisees, and to be a credit to the profession. This something I try to practice within the normal workday, as well as in all aspects of my life.
In summary, effective academic advisors must be skilled in many areas and care about the success of their advisees, their institution, and the advising profession. Academic advisors must do far more than simply make sure their advisees are taking the right courses. Effective academic advisors must possess strong interpersonal skills and enjoy helping other people. As an academic advisor, I strive to possess and demonstrate all of the characteristics mentioned above. In my opinion, effective academic advisors are on the “front line” of student interaction on campus, and are essential in the promotion of student success and in increasing student retention.