Academic Advising 101: What Is Academic Advising?

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Most people understand what teachers, guidance counselors, and professors do. Yet, there is a lot of uncertainty about an adjacent educational career that is just as important: academic advisor.

Academic advisors generally work directly with students to help them make the most of their academic journeys and provide guidance throughout the process. Keep reading to learn more about the role an academic advisor plays and why students should take advantage of these services.

What is Academic Advising?

If you’ve ever wondered what academic advisors do, here’s a quick refresher: academic advisors guide students through an educational process that facilitates the advisee’s understanding of the meaning and purpose of higher education. Academic advising fosters and encourages both intellectual and personal development and academic success. It also cultivates a passion for lifelong learning.

Why Consider Academic Advising?

There are many different reasons why students may wish to seek out academic advising services. One of the most common times for academic advising is during undergraduate or graduate studies. Academic advisors work with students to help them choose a major or field of study, ensure they’re on track to graduate on time, suggest relevant coursework and experiential learning opportunities, and make the transition from academic life to a professional career feel more seamless. Many people are drawn to academic advising as a career because they enjoy helping others achieve their goals, and they share a lifelong passion for learning and intellectual curiosity.

What Does an Academic Advisor Do?

Being an academic advisor is a fast-paced job that requires professionals to hone multiple capabilities. Academic advisors possess different academic advising skills, such as analytical and interpersonal skills. These competencies are crucial, as academic advisors must be able to understand and convey school-specific guidance, tailor their recommendations to the specific student they are working with, and communicate about various processes and protocols in a manner that is approachable and easy to understand. Most academic advisors meet with multiple students each day, which is why it is important for them to remain organized and build rapport that will empower students to achieve their full academic potential.

What’s the Difference Between an Advisor and a Mentor in Academia?

While becoming an academic advisor and serving as a mentor in academia may sound similar, the two roles have several distinct differences. Mentors are generally subject matter experts who specialize in a specific field that a student is studying. A history professor or a research scientist may make a strong mentor for a student pursuing a related degree, but that does not mean this figure will serve as their academic advisor. For example, a mentor would be someone an engineering student could turn to for discussions around whether they should pursue electrical or computer engineering degrees, based on their strengths and interests.

In contrast, an academic advisor possesses some broad knowledge of the institution where a student is enrolled and the specific steps they will need to take to complete their coursework and receive a degree. Academic advisors are equipped to help students with a variety of different interests and academic goals. Their focus is on supporting a student holistically and ensuring they receive their degree, rather than a specific subject or field of expertise. For example, the engineering student would go to their academic advisor to ensure they were on track to meeting graduation requirements for their engineering degree.

When Should You See an Advisor?

There are many points during a student’s academic journey in which he or she might benefit from working with an academic advisor. Some of the most crucial moments to receive advising services include beginning a new degree program, selecting an undergraduate major, preparing to graduate from an academic institution, and any occasions in which a student is struggling with their coursework. Most academic advisors work one-on-one with students, meaning it is an excellent opportunity to receive personalized guidance that relates to a student’s unique needs and circumstances.

5 Functions of an Academic Advisor

If you want a clearer picture of what an academic advisor does on a day-to-day basis, here are a handful of their core responsibilities:

#1 Support Students During Class Registration

One of the most recognized functions of an academic advisor is building class schedules. When it is time to look to the next semester and select your classes, you may feel like you are on your own. This is a prime time to contact an academic advisor. An advisor can help you weigh the pros and cons of certain courses and even identify backup classes or schedules in the event your first choice is full when it is time to register. They can even help you choose a minor if you wish to explore additional academic opportunities.

#2 Inform Students of Policies and Resources

If you’re unclear about how many credits you need to graduate or whether a foreign language is required, meeting with an academic advisor is a smart decision. Your academic advisor can review the requirements that you must meet in order to graduate, pinpoint what classes and coursework you need to prioritize, and keep you updated on any changes in policies that may affect your academic experience. If you ever have a question about research opportunities, study abroad programs, counseling services or tutoring, an academic advisor is also a great point of contact. Advisors are familiar with all the various resources that your school has to offer, so they will be able to point you in the right direction and ensure you can access the support you need.

#3 Monitor Student Performance

Students who are struggling with their coursework should consider making an appointment with an academic advisor. An advisor will meet with you to learn what is challenging you and identify several solutions to help you get your academic performance back on track. Academic advisors can help students find additional support services, such as tutoring or office hours. They can also meet with students on a consistent basis to ensure they’re doing the work and putting the required hours into getting their grades back on track.

#4 Conduct Orientation Sessions

Academic advisors often lead orientation sessions to help new and prospective students get familiar with their institution. These meetings serve as an excellent introduction into what the school experience is like, how students can set themselves up for success, and the tools and resources that the school has available.

#5 Provide Career Guidance

Academic advisors can be instrumental in helping students get ready for their first professional roles. To prepare for your academic advising appointment, make sure to share a few professional goals you have for yourself. Once your academic advisor is familiar with the direction you want to move, they can work with you to develop an academic plan that will steer you towards your career ambitions.

What Are the Benefits of Academic Advising?

The benefits of academic advising are numerous and varied. The advising process will help students gain further clarity about their academic goals and the steps they must take to achieve them. A good academic advisor helps students think of different curricular opportunities that match their interests, including some that they hadn’t considered before. They will make students feel more connected to their campus and college community, act as a concerned and caring representative of the university, and explain and help students navigate university policies and procedures, like taking a leave of absence or going on a study abroad.

A recent survey, however, found that only 55% of participating students reported receiving advising on graduation requirements. Policies vary wildly by institution with some schools requiring that students meet with their advisor regularly and some where students must find and reach out to an academic advisor themselves.

Academic Advising and IvyWise

Given the range of benefits associated with academic advising, it’s no surprise that many students are looking to take advantage of these services to receive personalized guidance throughout their educational journey. If you’re looking for one-on-one support to make the most of your academic experience, check out this page to learn more about IvyWise’s academic advising services.


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