Amy P. LaRocca, Georgia Perimeter College
Adapted from a presentation at the 2010 Region 4 NACADA Conference
Reposted from Academic Advising Today, December 2010
I was lucky. About four months after graduating with my master’s degree, I secured a position as an academic advisor. I was thrilled with the possibilities within my new career and began seeing students almost immediately. As a new advisor, I have learned many lessons, often through trial and error. I have also realized that I possess skills that are unique simply because I am a new advisor. Thankfully, I have learned how to use these skills and how to make veteran advisors aware of them. When veteran advisors recognize the unique talents new advisors possess, they can work together to maximize these skills and better assist students.
New advisors generally come into the field with one thing in common: lots of questions. Some questions I had as a new advisor were: What makes one advisor “better” than another? What makes an advisor “the best”? “the worst?” Do poor advisors give inaccurate or incomplete information? What do I say to student who flunked chemistry and cannot apply to a nursing program? With so many questions, it can be hard for a new advisor to focus on the most important issue: student success.
However, while new advisors come into the field with many questions and much to learn, they also bring with them a unique skill set. Most new advisors possess three distinct skills. First, they are enthusiastic and excited. Most new advisors are more than willing to volunteer. They want to attend conferences, participate in graduation; they seek out new experiences and ways to learn. If a guinea pig is needed to test a new idea, seek out a new advisor. Second, new advisors actively seek improvement (Haydon, 2004). They often request input from students, supervisors, and fellow advisors in an attempt to find useful feedback and ways they can improve. Third, new advisors are likely to use research within the advising field to improve themselves and their campuses (Folsom, 2007). They comb the NACADA Web site for new tools and articles; they research successful programs at other institutions and borrow ideas that can be used in their own setting.
New advisors should learn their strengths and feel confident displaying them to their veteran counterparts. Teamwork between new and veteran advisors can lead to a better overall advising experience for students. While veteran advisors have the benefit of experience, they may need to be reminded of what it is like to be new.
Veteran advisors who work with new advisors can benefit in several ways. First, there can be a cycle of misunderstanding between veteran advisors and new students. Veteran advisors can become accustomed to repeating information and may be unaware that they are explaining things in an unclear manner. Often it takes a new advisor who says, “I am confused by that explanation” for a veteran advisor to realize how a student might also be confused. Similarly, veteran advisors can forget what it is like not to know certain things. All students may not know how to access an academic calendar from the institution’s homepage or that a “W” and a “WF” are not the same thing. A new advisor who asks can remind veteran advisors that this information is also new to some students. Further, new advisors can work with advisor training coordinators to provide feedback and reflections on new advisor training activities. It is important that those who create training programs receive feedback from participants within the program (Folsom, Joslin, &Yoder, 2005). New advisors can be a great resource for evaluating new training systems.
Another way both new and veteran advisors can gain skills is to partner for individual and group advising sessions. Some of the best experiences that I had during my first weeks as an advisor came from sitting in on advising sessions with a veteran advisor. Observing another’s advising session gives an advisor the chance to experience diverse advising styles. New advisors typically use prescriptive advising, and while this is an effective way to convey valuable information to the student, prescriptive advising may not allow an advisor to appreciate students as individuals outside of their academic role (Hale, Graham, & Johnson, 2009). When new and veteran advisors co-participate in advising sessions, it gives the new advisor a chance to see a more interactive style of advising. In addition, when a veteran advises alongside a new advisor, the veteran advisor can see the new advisor’s unique skills in action. This partnership can help new advisors gain confidence while increasing their knowledge base.
I was lucky that I found an amazing job and lucky to work with advisors who value my skills and perspective. However, I realize that I was not the only one who was lucky. Having a new advisor on staff can create a wonderful opportunity for veteran advisors to improve and for new advisors to learn. Both new and veteran advisors should realize the value in their relationship and should continually foster that relationship. Such cooperation does much for each advisor, but more importantly; these relationships further our opportunities to improve student success through high-quality academic advising.
Amy P. LaRocca
Student Affairs Counselor
Advising, Counseling, and Retention Services
Georgia Perimeter College
References and Resources
Altiparmak, M. (2004). Reflections from the field: Advice for new advisors. Advising Today, 27(4), 12-13.
Folsom, P. (Ed.). (2007). The New Advisor Guidebook: Mastering the Art of Advising Through the First Year and Beyond. Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.
Folsom, P., Joslin, J., & Yoder, F. (2005) . From advisor training to advisor development: Creating a blueprint for first-year advisors. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: www.nacada.kse.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/First-Year-Advisors.htm
Grewe, M. E. (2010). Reflections of a first-time adviser. The Mentor, electronic publication about academic advising in higher education. Volume 1, number 1. Retrieved from: www.psu.edu/dus/mentor/
Hale, M., Graham, D., & Johnson, D. (2009). Are students more satisfied with academic advising when there is congruence between current and preferred advising styles?. College Student Journal, 43(2), 313-324.
Haydon, L. (2004). If I were to write a book about academic advising for new advisors. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: www.nacada.kse.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Advising -book.htm
Miller, M. A. (2002, December). How to thrive, not just survive, as a new advisor. The Academic Advising News, 25(4). Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: www.nacada.kse.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/newadvisor.htm