Academic Advising Case Studies

Administration Case Studies (EDCEP 837)
Student Athlete Case Studies (
EDCEP 864, formerly EDCEP 761)
Guiding Questions
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Three cases studies are required. Choose two case studies below. The third case study must be from the restrictive elective indicated on your Program of Study: Administration (EDCEP 837) or Student Athlete (EDCEP 864, formerly EDCEP 761).  **Students who took EDCEP 839 Assessment of Academic Advising or EDCEP 812 History and Philosophy of Higher Education as their elective and chose to do Case Studies as their final project should complete three (3) Academic Advising Case Studies.**

The cases below are for Spring 2023 and Summer 2023 Graduates. Cases will be updated for Fall 2023. 

The Case of Fred

Fred is a student at a small rural community college. He has come to see Linda, an advisor in the college’s general advising center, to receive help with registering for his third semester at the college. He is a pre-engineering student. Linda does not typically work with pre-engineering students. She mentions this to Fred and offers to help him set an appointment with his assigned advisor who specializes in helping students to prepare for engineering majors. Fred refuses to go back to see this other advisor who helped him enroll for his second semester. He tells Linda that he has been diagnosed with Autism and this other advisor does not understand him so he is only comfortable working with her. She helped him enroll for his first semester and he liked the way she helped him.

Linda agrees to work with Fred and asks him about his plans for the future. Fred states that he will be graduating with an associate’s degree from this college and then transferring on to an engineering program at a large state university nearby. Linda knows that the engineering program at that university is quite selective. She also has heard from other advisors that this program does not accept engineering or physics classes from community colleges and requires that students complete at least three years at their university, even if they have completed two or more years at another college.

Before further advising Fred, Linda decides to check his grades for the classes he has completed and the midterm grades for his current classes. She sees that he has all A’s in his calculus and physics classes, but has a D in a General Psychology course and an F in an English composition course. He is currently retaking the English composition course and does not seem to be doing any better. When she asks what happened in those classes, he expresses that there are too many people in those classes and the teachers do not have much time to talk to him. He says he cannot understand the assignments and does not understand why he has to take those classes. His other instructors have always had time to help him. Linda recalls that the psychology and English classes at this college tend to have about 50 people in them while there are usually only 10 to 15 people in the calculus and physics classes.

The Case of Guadalupe

Sharon is an advisor at a small state university. She is visited by Rosa, a student she has not worked with before. Rosa tells Sharon that another student, Guadalupe, an advisee of Sharon’s, left two weeks ago for Mexico to attend her uncle’s funeral. Rosa, who is a lifelong friend of Guadalupe’s, just received word that Guadalupe and several members of her family had been detained at the border and they did not know when they would be able to get back home. Rosa says that Guadalupe asked her to come to Sharon to request a complete withdrawal from classes. Sharon knows that she cannot withdraw students from classes based entirely on the report of another student so she asks Rosa if she knows if there is a way that Sharon can speak to Guadalupe directly. Rosa was not sure how to do so. Guadalupe contacted Rosa by cell phone but Rosa had not been able to contact Guadalupe at that number since then. She also didn’t know where they were being detained. Sharon thanked Rosa for the notice and told her she would see what she could do.

Sharon is worried about Guadalupe because during their last two meetings, Guadalupe had expressed a lot of self-doubt even though her grades were good. During their last visit the previous semester, she told Sharon that she didn’t know if she would continue college after that semester. Sharon convinced Guadalupe to try another semester, but she also had concern that Guadalupe was depressed and recommended that Guadalupe see one of the counselors on campus. She has not heard from Guadalupe since that time so she doesn’t know if she ever saw a counselor. She feels that Guadalupe has a bright future ahead of her if she can continue on, but is afraid that if she finds a way to withdraw Guadalupe from classes now, Guadalupe may never return. She tries to contact Guadalupe through her phone but, as Rosa said, it is not in operation. It is the last week to withdraw from courses so it is important that something be done soon. She would like to contact the campus counseling center to see if anyone there can tell her if they have been working with Guadalupe and if they could give her any advice on how this could affect Guadalupe’s future.

The Case of Eric

Eric is a sophomore at a large public university. Eric is blind and uses a service dog to get around campus. He is coming to see his regular advisor, Jerry, during the fifth week of the semester. Eric likes most of his classes, but is frustrated about one particular class. He is taking a history class which a friend had told him was very fun. Eric does not find it fun at all because the instructor relies heavily on visual elements such as videos and cartoons. Eric cannot see any of them. Eric said he tried to talk to the instructor about his problems with the class, but the instructor said he did not have time to convert all of the materials into a format that would help Eric. The instructor instead offered to find another student to help Eric and made an announcement in class asking for someone to help Eric in class. Eric reports that one student did volunteer but has been no help and now Eric’s grade is suffering.

Eric admits that he is a bit mad at Jerry for letting him take this class with this instructor in the first place, though he has a solution. He says he has another friend in a different section of the class with a different instructor. That friend’s section is almost entirely a lecture without any visual aids and this friend would much rather be in Eric’s section. Eric would like to switch places with this friend and take that other section.

Jerry would like to honor Eric’s request, but there are a few problems. The first problem is that Eric’s friend is not present to request the trade. Another problem is that at this point in the semester, the university policy states that students can drop one course and add another, but the students would still be charged for the dropped class and to add the other course, the student would need to get permission from both the dean and the other instructor. If the two sections are covering material at different rates, the instructors may not be willing to switch the students. Jerry has also heard rumors that these two instructors strongly dislike each other and he is afraid that things may not go well for these students if they mention their plan to their instructors. Jerry is concerned about how he should bring up these issues to Eric as Eric has already mentioned that he is a bit angry and Jerry can see subtle signs of Eric’s agitation through his body language. Jerry is also concerned about what Eric’s service dog might do if Eric became angry.

Case of Megan

Karen is an advisor at a small, private college.  Megan is an 18-year-old freshman. When Megan calls to make her registration appointment for the spring semester, Karen remembers her well. They met at summer orientation, and Karen found Megan to be enthusiastic about college but completely undecided about a major. Her SAT and high school grades indicated a strong preference for reading; she had average math scores and low scores in the sciences. Megan stopped in at the beginning of the semester to switch her English class sections because of a conflict with her new campus job at the library. At that time, Megan was enjoying life on campus, getting along well with her roommate, and indicated that her classes were “fine.” When Megan arrives for her appointment she is a bit more prepared to select classes for the spring. She is still debating between her two majors and just wants to take “general classes” again in the spring.

“I really like that sociology class. Are there more classes like that?” Megan asks.

Karen pulls up the list of sociology classes offered in the spring and asks Megan what she liked about the sociology class. Megan describes the chapter on environmental sociology and was fascinated. She has long been interested in environmental concerns and issues.

“One of my classmates is also interested in the environment. She’s majoring in geology and was telling me about it. Is there a geology class I can take? Maybe I’ll major in that.”

Karen pulled up the geology classes offered in the spring, happy that Megan found something in which she was interested, but concerned because of Megan’s past science grades and test scores. “Tell me about the science classes you had in high school. Did they interest you? How did you study for them?”

Megan describes her past science classes. She had earth science as a freshman and that class did interest her more than the others. “I never had to study much in high school,” Megan confessed. “I try to take notes but they never make sense when I read them later. In high school I just listened to the instructor, read the book and got the information. But in my science classes the instructors used all these diagrams and charts that I never really understood and then I would get bored.” They discuss Megan’s strategies for studying for her classes a bit more.

Karen can see that Megan begins to brighten but still seems a bit nervous. Karen asks if there is anything else she can do to help Megan. Megan thinks for a moment; clearly there is something else troubling her.

“Well, I don’t know if you can really help me with this, but it has been on mind and I’m not sure how to go about it.” Megan explains to Karen that she is gay and while she has come out to her younger sister and to many of her friends, she has not yet told her parents. She feels it time to do so and she wants to tell them when she is home over the semester break. But she is nervous about their reaction to the news. Karen empathizes with Megan’s situation and asks more about Megan’s relationship with her parents, how she told her sister, and what her sister’s reaction was to the news.

Case of Ted

When fall midterm grade notices came out, Ted Brown – an undeclared freshman, showed F’s in every course in which he enrolled. Jack, his advisor, waded through the loud music on Ted’s answering machine to leave several messages, but Ted did not call back until a week after the deadline for dropping courses. He told Jack there had been an unexpected death in his immediate family, but now that he was back on campus and had a chance to talk with his instructors, he was sure things would be okay. Jack expressed sympathy and outlined Ted’s options (repeating the courses in hopes of improving the grade or withdrawal) and asked Ted to keep in touch.

Ted came to see Jack two weeks later, saying he wanted to withdraw his registration because he was too far behind and certain to fail all his courses. Jack explained procedures and asked him to confer with his parents.

Several days later, Dr. Hightower, Ted’s father called. He informed Jack he was a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the College of Medicine elsewhere and wanted to know why Jack was advising his son to “drop out of school.”

Jack explained that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prevented discussion of the particulars of his son’s case, but said he could explain the withdrawal procedure and the typical reasons why an advisor might suggest that a student withdraw their registration. Dr. Hightower said, “I understand completely. We have that at my school too. But we’re both university people so we can ignore the Buckley Amendment.” Jack reiterated that he’d need Ted’s consent before discussing his case, but that he’d be happy to listen to anything Dad might want to say. He learned that Ted was Dr. Hightower’s stepson, had had a weak academic record in high school, and had been referred for assessment of a learning disability, but his mother refused not wanting her son to be “labeled.” Dr. Hightower himself wasn’t sure Ted had a real disability, but seemed to have little tolerance for sitting in a classroom for long time periods. “Ted is a kid that needs to be fully engaged in order to learn anything.”

Jack got Ted back in the office that day and explained the conversation with his father, and Ted immediately gave Jack permission in writing to discuss Ted’s situation with his father. Jack appreciated Ted’s consent because he felt it would prevent Ted from playing him off against his father; Ted could no longer claim Jack was making him drop out. He also wanted more information on how Ted learned best, there may be some ways Jack can help Ted.

When Dr. Hightower phoned back later that day, Jack remembered his customer service training and was quick to say, “I’m sorry about the death in your family. It seems to have upset Ted.” There was silence on the other end of the line.

“What death?” asked Dr. Hightower.

Adapted Folsom and Chamberlain (2007, p. 162)

Case of Maria

Maria is a 19-year-old Latina, first-generation university student in her second year of study at a large predominately white suburban state university. She is “normal” in intelligence but reports that she dislikes school. She is undecided about her major except for the fact that she is not interested in “anything related to math or science.” Her current grade point average is 2.2 on a 4.0 scale. In her last visit to her advisor, Dave-a White male, she shared that she routinely hands in her class assignments late, if at all. Maria is not involved in any university-related activities but does work 20 hours per week at the fast food restaurant across the street from her residence hall. She associates with a group of students who also have little involvement in school-related activities and tend to not take studying that seriously. Some of her friends have been in trouble with the police for drug-related activities. Maria regularly meets with her advisor. Dave has taken an interest in Maria’s college success after meeting with her and her parents during New Student Orientation. The entire family was very respectful and Maria’s parents expressed their belief that a college education was important so that Maria could have a good paying job to help provide for her own family someday. Maria appeared to respect her parents and agreed with them that a college degree would be good for her future. However, Maria is typically not enthusiastic when she meets with Dave. She schedules her meetings with him just before she is eligible to enroll. Dave believes Maria’s only reason for meeting with him is to have her advising flag lifted so that she can enroll. Maria’s father recently called Dave encouraging him to help Maria select a major.  Dave assures Maria’s father that they will discuss her major options at their next visit. Without disclosing Maria’s grades or details of previous advising conversations, Dave asks Maria’s father what he feels Maria’s interests and strengths might be. Dave believes this might help open a real dialogue with Maria about her major options and how her choice of a major and experience on campus can all impact her future success as well. Dave begins to plan for his upcoming meeting with Maria.

Adapted from Feller and O’Bruba (2009, p. 36).

Case of Allison

Allison is a transfer student from Tribal College, located on her reservation. She has lived on the reservation for most of her life but left only because she had finished all the available academic courses for her major in pre-nursing at Tribal College. She transferred to the nearby State College because it was close to home. Though a predominately White college, State College is surrounded by several American Indian tribes, and there is a noticeable number (about 5%) of undergraduates who self-identify as American Indians. Allison is living on campus (like the majority of students) because it is easier for her to live at State College than to commute 3 hours each way from her reservation home every day.

In her first semester, Allison is taking an interdisciplinary course called Democracy in Action. The course meets a general education requirement, and because she is a transfer student she feels a bit behind on her general requirements. During a class discussion the issue of gaming, specifically casinos on American Indian reservations, was brought up as an example of an unwanted business in the state. This prompted further conversation on the issues of tribal sovereignty, and many of the White students felt that sovereignty was not more important that the fact that state law does not allow gambling.

Allison is the only American Indian in the class, and because the instructor did not explain tribal sovereignty or the economic issues tribes face on the reservations, she was very uncomfortable speaking up or talking to the white male instructor. Instead, Allison has approached her academic advisor for advice and guidance. Allison tells her advisor that she does not feel welcome in the class and is worried that the instructor will be biased against her because she is an American Indian and a member of the tribe being discussed. Allison has never been in this situation and is wary about the institutional climate or the support she has available to her. As a result, Allison is discouraged and is considering leaving college because she feels unsupported and uncomfortable. She is considering finishing her nursing degree through an online program she saw advertised on television.

Adapted from Cuyjet, Howard-Hamilton, and Cooper (2011, p. 184-185). 

Case of Susan

Susan entered the university as an undecided undergraduate, but she was considering both animal science and communications as two possible areas of study. In her first semester, she completed the First-Year Survey course, which is designed to help students explore major and career options and assist them with the transition from high school to college. Although Susan completed the academic and career exploration assignment that was required for the course, she did not invest much into the experience. The assignment involved several parts: taking interest inventories, reviewing academic majors and curricular requirements, exploring career-related information in the Web version of the Occupation Outlook Handbook, and interviewing a senior student in a major of interest. In her assignment, Susan stated that her high school teachers and school counselors had encouraged her to pursue a science career because she had received good grades in math. Susan indicated that she thought animal science would be a good choice because she likes animals. She also talked about becoming a veterinarian, but she had not been exposed to that career field nor could she describe in any depth the elements that attracted her to the occupation. She also considered communications as a major because her father had told her that she would be good in public relations.

In high school, Susan was a good student. She earned a 3.5 grade-point average (GPA) (on a 4.0 scale), and her ACT scores were above the national average (her composite score was 26, with a 27 in English and a 24 in math). After her first semester in college, Susan earned a 2.75 GPA with a C in beginning calculus and Bs in General Chemistry I, Introduction to Film, and Honors Freshman Composition. She did not qualify for honor status. During your last advising meeting, Susan indicated that she needed to learn how to study more, but she did not follow through with your suggestion to use the on-campus academic resources available for study skill strategies and time management. She also noted that she was very excited about joining the photography club and was considering rushing for a sorority the following term. She is currently enrolled in Introduction to East Asian History I, General Chemistry II, and Introductory Psychology. Without consulting you, she dropped Calculus II earlier in the term through her Web access account.

In this advising meeting with you, she remains standing and only takes a seat after you suggest that she sits down. She appears to be in a hurry. Although she takes a seat, her coat remains on and buttoned. She begins the conversation by asking you to review her schedule for next term. With her coat still buttoned, she shows you her proposed schedule for the following term. She plans to take Calculus II again, Organic Chemistry I, Introduction to East Asian History II, and a sophomore-level writing course. All courses she has taken to date and has proposed to take count toward general education requirements. She turns to you and says, “Do you think I am making good progress?”

From Steele (2003).


Carr, D.L., & Epstein, S.A. (2009). Information resources to enhance career advising. In K.F. Hughey, D. Burton Nelson, J.K. Damminger, & B. McCalla Wriggins (Eds.), The handbook of career advising (pp. 146-181). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Torres, V. & Bitsoi, L. (2011). American Indian college students.  In M.J. Cuyjet, M.F. Howard-Hamilton, & D.L. Cooper (Eds.), Multiculturalism on campus: Theory, models, and practices for understanding diversity and creating inclusion (pp. 169-190). Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Feller, R., & O’Bruba, B. (2009). The evolving workplace: Integrating academic and career advising. In K.F. Hughey, D. Burton Nelson, J.K. Damminger, & B. McCalla Wriggins (Eds.), The handbook of career advising (pp. 19-47). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Folsom, P., & Chamberlain, B. (2007). Using case studies.  In P. Folsom & B. Chamberlain (Eds.) The new advisor guidebook: Mastering the art of advising through the first year and beyond (pp. 159-162). Manhattan, KS: NACADA.

Steele, G. (2003). A research-based approach to working with undecided students: A case study illustration. NACADA Journal, 23(1 & 2), 10-20.

Questions to Guide the Conceptualization and Development of Case Studies

The questions presented below are intended to serve as a guide and help with ideas in preparing your discussion of the case. The case study is to be presented in paragraph form; the questions are not to be answered individually in your presentation.

  1. What does the information given tell you about the issues for the student and the type of help he or she might need?
  2. What are possible issues that need to be addressed by the student?
  3. What are goals that might apply to the student?
  4. What decisions might need to be made (either by the advisor or the student)?
  5. What theory or theories could be used to help understand the student’s situation and how do these help in developing advising interventions or strategies with the student?
  6. What research could be used to inform your advising with the student? How does this apply to working with the student?
  7. How would you go about helping or advising the student? What type of advising approach would you take with the student and why?
  8. What resources would you recommend for the student?
  9. What additional information would be helpful to know?
  10. To what extent do diversity or multicultural issues need to be considered with the student? What are considerations related to this?
  11. What are key considerations that would guide your advising with the student?
  12. Should a referral be considered? If so, provide a recommendation and a rationale for the recommendation?
  13. What institutional policies might need to be explained to the student?

Administration Case Studies (EDCEP 837)
Student Athlete Case Studies (EDCEP 864, formerly
EDCEP 761)
Return to Final Project page

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