Academic Advising: Overview

The academic advising of students is an integral part of the faculty’s teaching obligations. The college is committed to student graduation after four years of full-time undergraduate study, and faculty participation in advising is a significant factor in student retention as well. Above all, the role of faculty members in advising allows students to better understand their educational world and celebrate their success along their academic and career path. Faculty members advise students who are exploring which major to declare, undergraduates who have declared a major, and graduate students. The advising of incoming students (both freshmen and transfers) and undeclared students is coordinated by the School/Conservatory Directors, the department chairs, the program coordinators, and the Advising Center.

Academic advising is a teaching opportunity that should be conducted with the same degree of purpose as classroom teaching. Faculty advisors teach students to value the learning process, gather necessary information, set priorities, make complex decisions, and evaluate the meaning of their course choices. Advising appointments should also allow students to make connections between what they are learning in and out of the classroom.

The basic tasks of any academic advisor are to develop a thorough knowledge of the institution and the academic programs, policies, and services that are available to students, while attempting to perceive and understand the needs of students. By understanding the institution in this manner, advisors may provide specific and accurate information, identify their students’ needs, and make appropriate referrals to available campus resources. Ideally, students will develop a personal relationship with his or her advisor through this type of ongoing mentorship. The current College Catalog, the academic program sites, eight-semester graduation plans, and other college documents supplemented by referrals, provide the basis for sound academic advising.

Prior to Advising Week, advisors often post sign-up sheets on their office doors to facilitate the scheduling of advising appointments. Before meeting with the advisor, the student should review his or her Degree Progress Report (DPR) and the course search to prepare a tentative schedule. The advisee’s Degree Progress Report should be reviewed during the advising session, and there should be a discussion about the student’s academic progress.

In myHeliotrope on the faculty/staff portal, the advising menu under “Faculty Services” contains data and tools to assist you in the advising process, including your advisee listing with holds that may bar students from course registration, the course search, and the Degree Progress Report used to monitor your advisees’ academic progress.

The alternate PIN is a unique six-digit number assigned to the student, needed to access registration for that term. It is available to you under “Faculty Services” in myHeliotrope on the faculty/staff portal. You should provide your advisees with this number during your advising meeting with them. Students will need to enter this number to register for courses during the first day of their registration period. After that first day, continuing students should no longer need to enter the PIN, and the PIN will be erased from the advisee list. Incoming freshmen and transfer students will need to use their alternate PIN for all changes to their first semester schedule. If there is no alternate PIN provided in the advisee list, the student will not need to enter a PIN to access registration.

Advisors should know when to urge students to see someone else to explore alternatives. Studies have shown that students are far more likely to follow up on a referral if the advisor assists directly in making the original contact. For answers to advising questions about which the advisor or the student is uncertain, please contact the Advising Center or the program coordinator of the school or conservatory.

The advisor of a student who is exploring which major to declare should be prepared to explore with the student his or her life goals and education/career goals and to help the student reach at least a tentative decision about choice of major. Students may have questions related to internships and career options related to a particular major. The Career Development Center specializes in working with advisors and undeclared students to help these students find a rewarding and challenging employment experience that can supplement or help determine their choice of major.

When the advisee decides on a major, he or she will file a Declaration of Major form with the Office of the Registrar. It is available under Forms on the registrar’s site.

The primary responsibilities of the major advisor are to give specific advice about the academic requirements of the student’s chosen major and to oversee the student’s completion of general degree requirements, including the core curriculum requirements.

This includes:

  • reviewing the advisee’s Degree Progress Report and the major plan
  • monitoring the student’s progress in completing major requirements and general degree requirements each semester
  • ensuring that the student will complete the required number of credits to graduate and will meet core curriculum, liberal arts, upper level, and residency credit requirements

The major advisor:

  • will also provide guidance about the applicability of courses that a student may have taken (or will take) at another college or university
  • should be familiar with satisfactory academic progress guidelines and forms (for federal financial aid)
  • can be expected to counsel students on matters related to their senior project and about graduate or professional school in fields closely related to the student’s major

In addition to making students aware of their major and general degree requirements, major advisors can help their advisees to expand other areas of interest by thoughtful choices of elective courses or academic minors (sort by major/minor: “minor”). Frequently, major advisors will be asked to write substantive letters of recommendation for students who are assembling a credentials file, either for application to graduate school or for employment.

For specific questions about advising in the major, please contact the faculty chair of the relevant department.

Students on academic probation are notified each semester of their academic standing. More information on Academic Probation and Academic Dismissal can be found on their respective webpages. Important: students on academic probation are not eligible to receive grades of incomplete in their classes. Please consult with the Director of Student Support and Academic Achievement if you have questions about these policies.