The Importance of Academic Advising in Higher Education | Big Indy News
Connect with us


The Importance of Academic Advising in Higher Education



By: Kaitlin Thach, Intern, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Communication and Outreach

“The main function of an academic advisor is to bring holistic support to students as they navigate their higher education to post grad journey.”

Universities and higher education institutions nationwide provide academic advising for both undergraduate and graduate students. This principal academic resource can go underutilized as students often consider advising as a resource only when they are frantic with worry when they realize that they have little time to sign up for classes.

As a UC Berkeley undergraduate student, I have come to realize that degree advisors exist at the institution solely for the purpose of helping the students, though you must seek them out yourself. It is upon the student to seek out appropriate resources and ask the questions they need answered. However, seeking out an academic advisor at competitive institutions can feel like a sign of failure or lack of independence for many students when this is not the case.

Throughout my college years, I have entered a pandemic, have had to navigate through the pandemic, and have transitioned from online schooling back to in-person classes. The changes that I had to overcome and adapt to were made easier through the help of my degree advisor.

Teresa Dinh, a student experience specialist at UC Berkeley, works with incoming freshmen and sophomore students with academic, admissions, and program-interest advising. She spoke with me about her experience as an advisor and some of the reasons why she believes in the importance of advising.

  • Advisors assist in monitoring academic progress. While advisors help students in selecting, adding, changing, or cancelling classes on their schedule, this process also helps students understand how to navigate the university/major policies and procedures better. If a course requires a prerequisite or needs to be taken during a specific semester, an advisor is knowledgeable enough to guide students through that decision-making process.

“An advisor should be up to date and knowledgeable on university/college policies such as general education requirements, graduation requirements, adding/dropping courses, and if  they are a major advisor, major specific policies.”

  • Advisors can help you find opportunities. Advisors are aware of ongoing programs on campus and have the authority to recommend students with potential to certain opportunities that will enhance their experience as a student in higher education.

“Students can book advising appointments where we can cover academic, program-interest, program-admissions, or career advising services. As a program, we also send out a newsletter every other week that provides updates, resources, opportunities and events as well. Essentially, every opportunity I get, I try to make it known that students can reach out to me any time with any questions they may have or can book appointments with me if they need.”

  • Advisors want to see you succeed. Being educated about the resources available to you on campus can help you feel part of a community that wants to see you prosper. Because students who enter higher education usually do not have their lives planned out, advisors are trained to help students map out their career and guide them through the process of achieving their goals/aspirations.

“I try to make it known to students that I am a resource that that they can reach out to, and through that, students in our program have always mentioned that they feel constant support  from staff as they navigate(d) their higher education journey.”

Interview with Teresa Dinh:

  • What is the main function of an academic advisor? 

The main function of an academic advisor is to bring holistic support to students as they navigate their higher education to post grad journey. An advisor should be up to date and knowledgeable on university/college policies such as general education/breadth requirements, graduation requirements, adding/dropping courses, and if they are a major advisor, major specific policies. Academic Advisors should also be aware of on-campus resources/departments that they could refer students to in case they need additional assistance that I am not well versed in such as counseling, financial aid, etc.

  • How do you work to support your students? What benefits do you offer students?

From my very first communication with students, I do my best to make it known to students they can reach out to me if they have any questions. As someone who identifies as a First-Generation College student, I understand how the transition into college could be overwhelming and sometimes, even though you were given information, you might not remember that information later on due to all sorts of new information being thrown at you. As students enter the summer, our program sends out communication to students that include an introduction to our program staff, how they could get in contact with us, and information on webinars our staff hosts that help prepare students to enroll into their fall courses. During their day of enrollment, we also offer students the ability to reach out in case they are unsure what classes they should enroll into or if there are not as many course options available. As the academic year starts, we offer advising hours typically from 9am to 4pm during the work week. Students are able to book advising appointments where we can cover academic, program-interest, program-admissions, or career advising services. As a program, we also send out a newsletter every other week that provides updates, resources, opportunities and events as well. Essentially, every opportunity I get, I try to make it known that students can reach out to me any time with any questions they may have or can book appointments with me if they need. Students have told me numerous times that they always feel they could come to me and that I have helped make them feel less of that “small fish in a big pond” feeling, and that is something I strive for as an advisor on campus.

  • What expectations do you have for students?

I do expect students to do at least a little bit of research and come to our advising sessions with questions prepared. You don’t need to know about our program in depth, but at least have some context that can help you guide the conversation and for me to understand what you are asking. I also want students to practice some professionalism with me as well! This means coming to our advising appointments on time, speaking respectfully, and keeping our advising appointments within the time limit you booked (unless there are no appointments after you, then we definitely could continue the conversation past the time frame).

  • What kind of resources do you share with your students?

Our website, professional/personal development workshops, any internship/research opportunities that we come across, campus resources, program-specific curriculum, and opportunities to speak/network with industry professionals.

  • What would you say to students that don’t seek out academic advisors? 

You could be missing something! It doesn’t hurt to have an academic advisor check over your academic progress, just to make sure.

  • What kind of connections have you made with your students? How would you describe these connections?

Similar to relationships you make in your personal life, building connections is based on how much you want to contribute. To some students, they check in with me to make sure they are on the right track and then go about their day, which is perfectly fine! However, there are other students who end up meeting with me regularly, asking questions, update me on their life/opportunities, and also try to have more casual conversations with me. This results to deeper connections. Having these deeper connections help me understand the student, their goals, their passions, and makes it a lot easier for me to be a reference for students when they are applying to opportunities, or write them a letter of recommendation that is more tailored to them. As I mention before, I try to make it known to students that I am a resource that that they can reach out to, and through that, students in our program have always mentioned that they feel constant support from staff as they navigate(d) their higher education journey.

Read the full article here

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Adnan Syed of ‘Serial,’ Newly Freed, Is Hired by Georgetown University



Adnan Syed, who was freed in September after he spent 23 years in prison fighting a murder conviction that was chronicled in the hit podcast “Serial,” has been hired by Georgetown University as an associate for an organization whose work mirrors the efforts that led to his release, the university has announced.

Mr. Syed, the subject of the 2014 podcast and pop-culture sensation that raised questions about whether he had received a fair trial after being convicted of strangling his high school classmate and onetime girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999, will work for Georgetown’s Prisons and Justice Initiative.

Mr. Syed, who was 17 at the time of Ms. Lee’s death in Baltimore, has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

The university said that Mr. Syed, now 41, will help support programs at the organization, such as a class in which students reinvestigate wrongful convictions and seek to “bring innocent people home” by creating short documentaries about their findings. The program, founded in 2016, “brings together leading scholars, practitioners, students and those affected by the criminal justice system to tackle the problem of mass incarceration,” according to its website.

Georgetown University, which is in Washington, said that in the year leading up to his release, Mr. Syed was enrolled in the university’s bachelor of liberal arts program at the Maryland prison where he was incarcerated.

“To go from prison to being a Georgetown student and then to actually be on campus on a pathway to work for Georgetown at the Prisons and Justice Initiative, it’s a full circle moment,” Mr. Syed said in a statement. “P.J.I. changed my life. It changed my family’s life. Hopefully I can have the same kind of impact on others.”

He added that he hoped to continue his education at Georgetown and go to law school.

The new job this month culminated what has been a remarkable year for Mr. Syed, whose case has again received widespread public attention after a flurry of recent legal activity.

In September, Mr. Syed was released from prison after a judge overturned his murder conviction. Prosecutors said at the time that an investigation had uncovered various problems related to his case, including the potential involvement of two suspects and key evidence that prosecutors might have failed to provide to Mr. Syed’s lawyers.

In October, prosecutors in Baltimore dropped the charges against Mr. Syed after DNA testing on items that had never been fully examined proved Mr. Syed’s innocence, officials said.

Ms. Lee’s family filed an appeal with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals after prosecutors dropped the charges.

On Nov. 4, the court said in an order that the appeal could be heard in court in February.

Marc Howard, the director of the Prisons and Justice Initiative, said in a statement that Mr. Syed’s “commitment to the program and to his education was clear from the moment he stepped into the classroom.”

He added that Mr. Syed “is one of the most resilient and inspiring people I’ve ever met, and he has so much to offer our team and the other students in P.J.I. programs.”

In a Georgetown University article about the hiring, Mr. Syed said that he was in disbelief when he first saw a flier for the program.

“It became this domino effect to see us be accepted,” he said. “It made it become something real in the eyes of others, that there are opportunities. There can be a sense of hope: a sense of hope that things can get better, a sense of hope that I can work hard and still achieve something, a sense of hope that I can still do something that my family will be proud of.”

His attachment to the school was evident on Sept. 19, when he walked out of prison for the first time since he was a teenager.

Amid a throng of reporters and his supporters, Mr. Syed walked down the courthouse steps in Baltimore, smiling. He gave a wave.

And in his hand, he carried a binder with a Georgetown sticker. His graded papers and tests were inside.

Read the full article here

Continue Reading


At Berkeley Law, a Debate Over Zionism, Free Speech and Campus Ideals



“Supporting Palestinian liberation does not mean opposition to Jewish people or the Jewish religion,” the group said in a statement to the Berkeley law community. Members of the group did not respond to messages seeking an interview.

After learning about the bylaw, Mr. Chemerinsky met with the university’s Hillel rabbi and spoke with several Jewish students, but, aside from concerns within the law school, the reaction was relatively muted, he said.

That changed, he said, after Kenneth L. Marcus, the civil rights chief of the U.S. Education Department during the Trump administration, wrote about the bylaw in September in The Jewish Journal under the explosive headline “Berkeley Develops Jewish Free Zones.”

Mr. Marcus wrote that the bylaw was “frightening and unexpected, like a bang on the door in the night,” and said that free speech does not protect discriminatory conduct.

The article went viral.

Mr. Chemerinsky said he learned about Mr. Marcus’s article, which he described as “inflammatory and distorted,” while he was in Los Angeles for a conference. Mr. Chemerinsky said he typed out a response to the article, which was appended to it, and then didn’t think much of it. That afternoon, he was deluged by emails. At an alumni event that night, the law school’s perceived hostility to Jews was “all anyone wanted to talk about.”

In an interview, Mr. Marcus, a Berkeley law school alumnus, said that he was contacted by law students there who were concerned about the bylaw. He said he spent weeks trying to support them and wrote his article after Berkeley did not “rectify the problem.”

Not allowing Zionist speakers, he said, was a proxy for prohibiting Jews. The provisions, he said, are “aimed at the Jewish community and those who support the Jewish community,” even while acknowledging that the policy could allow Jewish speakers and bar those who are not Jewish.

Read the full article here

Continue Reading


‘Better Defined By Their Strengths’: 5 Ways to Support Students With Learning Differences



“People with learning differences are human,” wrote Deanna White, a neurodiversity advocate and parent learning coach in response to a question we posed on LinkedIn. “Unique individuals and wonderful humans that are better defined by their strengths. So stop focusing on the weakness.”

We invited our social media followers across Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to weigh in on the most effective way schools can better support students with learning differences.

Responses ranged from shifting educators’ mindset—like highlighting student strengths—to more far-reaching changes that would require schoolwide or district support.

Focus on students’ strengths

There are many ways of encouraging students to play to their strengths, as educators Winston Sakurai and Phyllis Fagell demonstrated in an August 2022 article by Education Week Assistant Editor Denisa Superville.

They detailed how they shared their own learning struggles as a way to connect with their students. Their personal successes show students, who may be struggling academically or socially, that anything is possible.

Here’s what other educators had to say.

1. Help them understand their learning strengths and challenges and growing them as strong self-advocates.

2. Devoting time and money to developing teachers’ abilities to differentiate.

– Amy S.

By having high expectations and giving them exposure to high-quality materials and experiences, even ones that seem “above them.” They will shock us with their insights every time.

– Angela P. 😒😒🥴

Meet students where they are

In a 2015 primer on the topic, EdWeek Assistant Editor Sarah D. Sparks wrote about how “differentiated instruction”—the process of identifying students’ individual learning strengths, needs, and interests and adapting lessons to match them—became a popular approach to helping diverse students learn together. Respondents largely agreed.

Time to work with every student. If you can meet with a child for a bit of time to help with exactly what she or he needs, it might ignite both learning and understanding.

Alison K.

So many ways…start with environment, a.k.a. The Third Teacher.

  • Reduce obstacles

  • Increase supports

  • Meet kids where they are

(h/t @drncgarrett)

Matt R.

Small class sizes, strong positive teacher/student relationships, differentiated instruction, and reflection.

Yvonne E.

Smaller class sizes

In a 2017 Opinion essay, former teacher Marc Vicenti wrote about “the daily wear and tear on educators when trying to juggle a full teaching load and meaningful relationships with lively young people who all have different needs and experiences.”

“We can either choose to be less effective in our practice or exhaust ourselves—neither of which is beneficial to students or our own well-being,” he wrote.

Smaller class sizes are one way of mitigating the risk of burnout while working to meet each student’s needs.

Small classes, small schools, local control. I am the principal in a pretty small school in a small community and I know every child, and every family and we can build programs to meet our students’ needs. A country run or state run school system can’t do that.

Ryan G.

Increase funding to actually lower the student-to-teacher ratio. This allows teachers to give more time to the individual.

Cathleen W.

Fewer standardized tests

Standardized tests have long been criticized for narrowing instruction and for holding all students to the same standard when “students enter school at varying levels and learn and grow at different rates.”

The backlash against standardized testing renewed interest in alternative ways to evaluate students’ learning progress, like “performance assessments—the idea of measuring what students can do, not merely what they know”.

STOP standardized testing.

Dawn W.

Fewer standardized or timed tests, teaching to mastery, not according to a schedule.


Give students a voice

Sometimes it’s best to go to the source to discern how to best tackle an issue. Giving these students a voice can not only empower them in their learning, but also help educators understand how to have the biggest impact.

Ask them how they learn and what helps. Give them a voice!

Grisel W.

Yes! Listening to what students need and giving them a voice is something we need to do for all students, but especially those who need more help in the classroom.

Victoria D.

Read the full article here

Continue Reading