University College Advising Center

The following statements, definitions and information will help you be a successful Academic Advisor:

MTSU's Academic Advising Mission Statement

Definition of Academic Advising

Principles of Academic Advising

Goals of Academic Advising

The Advising Process

The Do's of Academic Advising

The Don't of Academic Advising

Things to Do at Each Advising Session

MTSU's Academic Advising Mission Statement

MTSU is committed to providing effective academic advising which facilitates the growth and development of individual students and to the belief that, given appropriate assistance, students can take control of their own academic progress and achieve their educational goals.

Definition of Academic Advising

Academic advising is a process of information exchange that empowers students to realize their maximum educational potential. The advising process is student-centered and will result in the student gaining a clearer understanding of himself/herself and the experience of higher education.

Principles of Academic Advising

Students are the most important individuals in any educational institution. Largely, the university exists for and because of students. Advising should provide academic guidance and a way to further students' intellectual, social, and physical development. For advising to ensure student success, the following functions must be observed:

  1. Academic advising must be a systematic, consistent, and continuous process with an accumulation of personal contact between advisor and students. These contacts have both direction and purpose.

  2. Advising must concern itself with holistic issues, and the advisor has a responsibility to help the student attend to the quality of his/her college experience.

  3. Advising must be goal related. Students should be encouraged and supported in exploring goals. Then goals should be established and owned by the student and should encompass academic, career, and personal development areas.

  4. Advising requires the establishment of caring human relationships in which the university must take equal responsibility to initiate advisor-students relationships.

  5. Advisors should be models for students to emulate, specifically demonstrating behaviors that lead to self-responsibility and self-directness.

  6. The advising system should seek to integrate the services and expertise of academic and student affairs professionals.

  7. Advisors should seek to utilize as many campus and community resources as possible. They should effectively identify and communicate academic and career options, services, and resources. Additionally, advisors should be continuously involved with professional development in the advising area in order to best meet the needs of the students.

Adapted from Winston, R.B., Ender, S.C., & Miller, T.K. (Eds). (1982). Developmental approaches to academic advising. New Directions for Student Services, No. 17. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Goals of Academic Advising

  • Clarification of life and career goals
  • Development of suitable education plans
  • Selection of appropriate courses and other educational experiences
  • Interpretation of institutional requirements
  • Increasing student awareness of educational resources available
  • Evaluation of student progress toward established goals
  • Development of decision-making skills
  • Reinforcement of student self-direction
  • Referral to and use of other institutional and community support services, where appropriate
  • Collection and distribution of student data regarding student needs, preferences, and performance for use in institutional policy-making

Adapted from the Council for the Advancement of Standards (CAS)

The Advising Process

Each year of students' careers will be marked by challenges and opportunities as they learn more about themselves and make choices about their future. While students bear the responsibility for making decisions about their university experiences, you, as the advisor, play a key role in students' educational growth. The keys to student success are planning ahead, managing time well, taking advantage of campus and community resources and being pro-active. The advising process, then, parallels student development and must be individualized to the needs of your students. You will find that advising is an on-going responsibility; advising takes place any time of the year, any time of the day, in your office, or anywhere on campus. In fact, advisors have been known to "advise" students in grocery store check-out lines as their advisee scans their cereal boxes!

Retrieved from:

The Advisor's Responsibilities:

  • Be knowledgeable about university and departmental requirements, policies, procedures, and important deadlines

  • Maintain adequate office hours throughout the semester

  • Provide a respectful, supportive atmosphere

  • Provide students with needed materials & catalog, schedule book, forms, etc.

  • Assist students in planning programs of study (both short-term and long-term) that are consistent with their abilities and interests

  • Help students assume responsibility for their decisions and actions

  • Make appropriate referrals

  • Keep accurate records

  • Maintain confidentially according to established standards

The Student's Responsibilities:

  • Be proactive & ask questions!!

  • Maintain contact with advisor

  • Keep scheduled appointments

  • Discuss information that affects academic performance

  • Learn requirements for dept., college, and university

  • Make use of all resources on campus

  • Be responsible for planning a course of study and fulfilling all necessary requirements and regulations by accepting ultimate responsibility for decisions

Adapted from Fort Hays State University Academic Advising Handbook, 2004

The Do's of Academic Advising

  1. Appreciate the emotion behind your advisee's words (voice intonation and body language).

  2. Constantly try to check your understanding of what you hear (not hear what you want to hear).

  3. Do not interrupt your advisee's sentences. Let him/her tell his/her story first.

  4. Fight off external distractions.

  5. Constantly check to see if your advisee wants to comment or respond to what you have previously said.

  6. RELAX - try not to give the impression you want to jump right in and talk.

  7. Establish good eye contact.

  8. Use affirmative head nods and appropriate facial expressions.

  9. Avoid nervous or bored gestures.

  10. Intermittently respond to your advisee with "uh-huh," "yes," "I see," etc.

  11. Ask clarifying or continuing questions (it demonstrates to your advisees that you are involved in what they're saying).

  12. Face your advisee squarely. It says that "I'm available to you."

  13. Maintain an "open" posture. This is a sign that the helper is open to what the advisee has to say. It is a non-defensive position.

  14. Lean towards the other, another indication of availability or involvement.

  15. Recognize the advisee's non-verbal behavior. Examples are bodily movements, gestures, facial expressions. Also recognize the para-linguistic behavior. Examples are tone of voice, inflections, spacing of words, emphases and pauses. This will enable you to respond to the advisee's total message and not just words.

  16. Recognize verbal behavior of the advisee. Be an active listener and listen for feelings and content behind the words, not just the words. Try to recognize if the feeling of the advisee is anger, happiness, frustration, or irritation and see if this conflicts with the words the advisee uses. This will enable you to respond accurately and effectively to the advisee in full perspective.

  17. Offer reflections on what the student is feeling, based on the advisor's observations. Example: "I sense you are kind of tense about this."

  18. Self-disclosure which can support the student's experience. Example: "I remember how nervous I was the first time I went in to see an advisor."

  19. Offer reflections on what the student is saying. Example: "I hear you saying that you aren't completely sure this is the right major for you."

  20. Indirect leads allow the student to choose the direction of the discussion. Example: "What would you like to talk about today?"

  21. Direct leads help the student to further explore a specific area. Example: "Can you tell me more about your thoughts on changing your major?"

  22. Focusing helps the student zoom in on a particular issue after many issues have been presented. Example: "We're talking about a lot of things here, which one is most important for you to work on now?"

  23. Asking questions using "what" or "how" can help the student give more than "yes," "no," "because," or "I don't know" answers. Example: "What do you like about this major and what don't you like" (Crockett, 1988, pp. 313-314)?

Retrieved from:

The Don'ts of Academic Advising

  1. TALKING. You can't listen while you are talking.

  2. NOT EMPATHIZING WITH THE OTHER PERSON. Try to put yourself in his/her place so that you can see what he/she is trying to get at.

  3. NOT ASKING QUESTIONS. When you don't understand, when you need further clarification, when you want him/her to like you, when you want to show that you are listening. But don't ask questions that will embarrass him/her or show him/her up.

  4. GIVING UP TOO SOON. Don't interrupt the other person; give him/her time to say what he/she has to say.

  5. NOT CONCENTRATING ON WHAT HE/SHE IS SAYING. Actively focus your attention on his/her words, ideas, and feelings related to the subject.

  6. NOT LOOKING AT THE OTHER PERSON. His/her face, mouth, eyes, hands, will all help him/her to communicate with you. They will help you concentrate, too. Make him/her feel that you are listening.


  8. SHOWING YOUR EMOTIONS. Try to push your worries, your fears, your problems outside the meeting room. They may prevent you from listening well.

  9. NOT CONTROLLING YOUR ANGER. Try not to get angry at what he/she is saying; your anger may prevent you from understanding his/her words or meaning.

  10. USING DISTRACTIONS. Put down any papers, pencils, etc. you may have in your hands; they may distract your attention.

  11. MISSING THE MAIN POINTS. Concentrate on the main ideas and not the illustrative material; examples, stories, statistics, etc. are important but are usually not the main points. Examine them only to see if they prove, support and define the main ideas.

  12. REACTING TO THE PERSON. Don't let your reactions to the person influence your interpretation of what he/she says. His/her ideas may be good even if you don't like him/her as a person or the way he/she looks.

  13. NOT SHARING RESPONSIBILITY FOR COMMUNICATION. Only part of the responsibility rests with the speaker; you as the listener have an important part. Try to understand. If you don't, ask for clarification.

  14. ARGUING MENTALLY. When you are trying to understand the other person, it is a handicap to argue with him/her mentally as he/she is speaking. This sets up a barrier between you and the speaker.

  15. NOT USING THE DIFFERENCE IN RATE. You can listen faster than he/she can talk. Use this rate difference to your advantage by trying to stay on the right track, anticipating what he/she is going to say, thinking back over what he/she has said, evaluating his/her development, etc. Rate difference: Speech rate is about 100 to 150 words per minute; think rate is about 250 to 500 words per minute.

  16. NOT LISTENING FOR WHAT IS NOT SAID. Sometimes you can learn just as much by determining what the other person leaves out or avoids in his/her talking as you can be listening to what he/she says.

  17. NOT LISTENING TO HOW SOMETHING IS SAID. We frequently concentrate so hard on what is said that we miss the importance of the emotional reactions and attitudes related to what is said. A person's attitude and emotional reactions may be more important than what he/she says in so many words.

  18. ANTAGONIZING THE SPEAKER. You may cause the other person to conceal his/her ideas, emotions, and attitudes by antagonizing him/her in any of a number of ways: Arguing, criticizing, taking notes, not taking notes, asking questions, not asking questions, etc. Try to judge and be aware of the effect you are having on the other person. Adapt to him/her. Ask for feedback on your behavior.

  19. NOT LISTENING FOR THE STUDENT'S PERSONALITY. One of the best ways to find out information about a person is to listen to him/her talk. As he/she talks, you can begin to find out what he/she likes and dislikes, what his/her motivations are, what his/her value system is, what he/she thinks about everything and anything that makes him/her tick.

  20. JUMPING TO ASSUMPTIONS. They can get you into trouble in trying to understand the other person. Don't assume that he/she uses words in the same way you do; that he/she didn't say what he/she meant; that he/she is avoiding looking you in the eyes because he/she is telling a lie; that he/she is trying to embarrass you by looking you in the eye; that he/she is distorting the truth because what he/she says doesn't agree with what you think; that he/she is lying because he/she has interpreted the facts differently from you; that he/she is unethical because he/she is trying to win you over to his/her point of view; that he/she is angry because he/she is enthusiastic in presenting his/her views. Assumptions like these may turn out to be true, but more often they just get in the way of your understanding.

  21. CLASSIFYING THE SPEAKER. It has some value, but beware. Too frequently we classify a person as one type of person and then try to fit everything he/she says into what makes sense coming from that type of person. He/she is a Republican. Therefore, our perceptions of what he/she says or means are all shaded by whether we like or dislike Republicans. At times it helps us to understand people to know their position, their religious beliefs, their jobs, etc., but people have the trait of being unpredictable and not fitting into their classifications.

  22. MAKING HASTY JUDGMENTS. Wait until all the facts are in before making any judgments.

  23. NOT ALLOWING RECOGNITION OF YOUR OWN PREJUDICE. Try to be aware of your own feelings toward the speaker, the subject, the occasion, etc. and allow for these prejudgments.

  24. NOT IDENTIFYING TYPE OF REASONS. Frequently it is difficult to sort out good and faulty reasoning when you are listening. Nevertheless, it is so important to a job that a listener should lend every effort to learn to spot faulty reasoning when he/she hears it.

  25. NOT EVALUATING FACTS AND EVIDENCE. As you listen, try to identify not only the significance of the facts and evidence, but also their relatedness to the argument (Crockett, 1988, pp. 315-316.).

Retrieved from:

Things to Do at Each Advising Session

  • Exploration of Career/Educational Goals

  • Review of Educational Program

  • Review of Academic Progress

  • Check for any Holds

  • Selection of Courses & check for high school deficiencies, DSP requirements, pre-requisites, etc.

  • Review of Time Management Issues for Scheduling Classes

  • Make Referrals if Needed

The National Academic Advising Association has an excellent resource section which includes information on advising standards, legal issues in advising, retention, etc.