Academic Advising: A Manifesto
For both faculty/professional staff advisors and students, advising is a developmental process. In high school, most students make few decisions about what courses to take. Usually, parents and guidance counselors make such decisions. In college, it is the student’s responsibility, in consultation with her advisor, to become her own academic planner. First-year students may need more developmental advising but, by their sophomore year, most students will be making their own decisions about what courses to take, what to major in, what to minor in, and so on. This development will continue so that, in the junior and senior years, a student’s conversations with her academic advisor will be less about meeting specific requirements for graduation and more about planning for a career or graduate study.
Faculty and professional staff, too, are constantly developing their competencies as academic advisors. New faculty/professional staff, especially those fresh from graduate school, may have little experience with advising, particularly as it pertains to SUNY Fredonia. They need information, mentoring, and, if at all possible, a reduced advising load. Evidence that a faculty/professional staff member takes advising seriously and is continuing to develop his advising skills should be an important consideration in decisions regarding reappointment, tenure, and promotion. Above all else, advisors should adopt the physicians’ motto with regard to advising: “Do no harm.” If an advisee asks a question and the advisor is not 100 percent confident of the answer, the advisor’s response should be, “Let me check on that and get back to you.” If unsure of where to find the answer, the advisor should contact the Advising Center. Chances are they either know the answer or know whom to call.
With this preamble in mind, the principles that follow are intended to guide faculty/professional staff and students as they engage in the process of academic advising, a process that we at SUNY Fredonia place great importance in, as evidenced by our advising motto: At Fredonia, Advising is Individualized Teaching (and Learning).
Student Responsibilities in the Advising Process:
Students understand that it is their responsibility:
- To be knowledgeable about General Education Program courses, courses in their chosen major, plus any additional requirements for that major, and also to ensure these requirements are met.
- To use check lists of requirements made available by departments, departmental advisors, and others, so that they can keep track of their progress.
- To fulfill all requirements in their program(s). If requirements for a major or minor change, they have the right to graduate under the set of requirements in effect at the time of declaration. If this is not possible due to a certain course no longer being offered, then the department should make a reasonable substitute available to the student.
- If they have declared a second major or minor in another department, the student should find someone in that department, perhaps the department chair, to answer questions that may arise concerning that program.
- To understand the necessary timing and sequence of prerequisites to complete, so that an extra semester for one course in a sequence is not necessary.
- To make and keep appointments with the advisor.
- To be on time for appointments and come to advising sessions prepared. The student understands it is their responsibility to fulfill any requirements that the advisor has for the student before the meeting.
- For the course selection aspect of advising, the student should have studied the catalog, various check lists, online course offerings, and any other relevant information, and have drafted a preliminary plan, including alternate courses where appropriate. This plan should take into consideration performance in courses the student is currently taking, as reflected by mid-semester grades. (The student and advisor may discuss the feasibility of dropping or withdrawing from a course; if so, they should keep in mind that this may have financial aid implications.) The student should bring to the advising session a list of courses needed for the major and a list of courses of general interest, plus any downloaded materials necessary for advisement.
- For the counseling aspect of advising, students should be prepared to discuss their educational and career goals, understanding that such plans should come more into focus as they progress through their undergraduate program of study. Students should come with some real questions and issues to discuss with their advisor.
- To create and maintain an Advising Portfolio. This should include: letter of admission; important communication concerning the admissions process, including transfer credits and high school transcripts; transfer credit approval forms; a record of progress and plans for meeting CCC, major, and other requirements; current university transcripts; copies of declaration forms; program reviews if applicable; etc. Anything the student receives from the university concerning his/her education should go in this portfolio.
- To ask the advisor questions. If the advisor does not have the answer, it can be expected the advisor will find the answer or direct the student how to find the answer.
- All in all, students have the right to expect that faculty/professional staff take their responsibilities as advisors seriously, and regard advising as an integral part of their role as faculty and professional staff members. The student understands that he/she may change his/her advisor with approval of the department chair.
Faculty/Professional Staff Responsibilities in the Advising Process:
Faculty and professional staff advisors understand it is their responsibility:
- To be knowledgeable about CCC requirements (of particular interest to undeclared/Liberal Arts students as they explore for a major), and courses in and requirements for the majors, minors, and concentrations offered by their department.
- To help students understand their degree requirements, particularly with regard to the CCC and requirements for majors, minors, and concentrations offered by their department.
- To make check lists of requirements available to students so that they can keep track of their progress the same way the advisor does.
- To inform students of any changes in requirements and advise them accordingly.
- To answer questions that may arise concerning a program from students other than their advisees, such as Liberal Arts students or those whose primary major may be in another department.
- For courses in the major, to know their frequencies and prerequisites, and help communicate this information to students, so that students take courses at the right time and in the proper sequence.
- To be available. This includes holding regular office hours, as well as being available for consultation via e-mail, telephone, or by appointment. Advisors should announce and hold additional office hours during the week preceding course selection.
- To be on time for appointments and come to advising sessions prepared.
- For the course selection aspect of advising, faculty and professional staff should have studied the catalog, various check lists, course offerings, and any other relevant information to prepare to help students select their courses. Functional questions to ask and help the student answer include:
- Does the schedule take into consideration the student’s past performance and performance in the current semester, as reflected by the student’s mid-semester grades? (If, for example, the student is doing poorly in Course A, which is a prerequisite for Course B, it may be advisable for the student to withdraw from Course A and/or repeat it the next semester, rather than registering for Course B. However, keep in mind that withdrawing from a course may have financial aid implications.)
- Is the schedule balanced?
- Are prerequisites met?
- Does the student have any D's or F's in courses, which, if repeated, would significantly repair the student’s academic record?
- Does the student meet full-time status?
- For the counseling aspect of advising, faculty and professional staff should help students address fundamental concerns such as:
- What are the student’s career options and goals? Does a re-examination of goals appear to be in order?
- What extra-curricular activities might the student engage in that would develop critical skills in communication and/or leadership?
- What’s graduate school and is it something the student should consider?
- Has the student considered internships, study abroad or summer research programs?
- Is the student becoming increasingly self-sufficient in scheduling and meeting requirements, or remaining dependent on parents or the advisor?
- Are there problems that may warrant referral: attitudinal, financial/practical, or academic?
- To help the department maintain an Advising Folder for each advisee. This should include: important communication concerning the admissions process including transfer credits; high school transcripts; transfer credit approval forms; a record of progress and plans for meeting CCC, major, and other requirements; current university transcripts; copies of declaration forms; program reviews if applicable; etc. A copy of anything the student receives from the university concerning his or her education should go in this folder.
- To help answer questions. If the advisor does not know the answer, he/she should attempt to find the answer by consulting with colleagues and/or the department chair, and then get back to the student, or provide the student with information on who to contact about that specific question.
Department Responsibilities in the Advising Process:
The department understands that it is their responsibility:
- To provide information to the students and faculty about requirements and courses in the major, including prerequisite and other information necessary for students to take courses in the proper sequence.
- To clearly and accurately state the requirements in the majors, minors, and/or concentrations offered by the department.
- To create and provide check lists of requirements that are accurate and current, and that present the requirements in a clear and organized manner.
- Understanding that requirements for majors, minors, and concentrations may change, but that students have the right to graduate under the set of requirements in effect at the time of declaration. If this is not possible due to certain courses no longer being offered, it is the responsibility of the department to make reasonable substitutes available to students.
- To provide the best possible information on when courses will be offered, so that students, with the aid of their advisors, may plan ahead.
Additional Sources of Information:
- Degree Audit Function, available online under Your Connection.
- Transfer Audit Function, available online under Your Connection.
- Academic Policies and Procedures, available in the online University Catalog.
- Coordinator of Academic Advising & Liberal Arts, Learning Center, 4th floor Reed Library, (716) 673-3188.
- General Education Program, Associate Provost for Curriculum & Academic Support, 126 Reed Library, (716) 673-3717.
- Financial Aid Office, E160 Thompson Hall, (716) 673-3253
As a general rule, when a student has questions or concerns about a course, the following individuals should be consulted in the order shown:
- Professor for the course
- Faculty/Professional Staff Advisor (for major and general education concerns)
- Program Coordinator or Department Chair
- Director of School of Music
- Dean of College or School (e.g., College of Arts and Sciences; Education; School of Business)
- Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs