What is Academic Advising?

Malcolm Tatum

Academic advising is a profession focused on offering constructive counsel and guidance to students in order to assist them in meeting their academic goals. The academic advisor offers assistance in evaluating skills and talents, and advises students in the selection of coursework and other academic programs. Academic advising seeks to help the student to combine those abilities with his or her likes and dislikes, and thus develop a plan of action in the pursuit of educational goals that will produce the desired outcome for the student.

Academic advisors may provide counseling to students.
Academic advisors may provide counseling to students.

While many people assume that academic advising is a role limited to colleges and universities, that is not usually the case. A school counselor is usually trained as an academic advisor as well as other issues that may be of importance to junior and high school age children. When a school advisor is properly trained to assist students in making responsible academic decisions, this application of academic advising helps to lay a foundation that the college advisor can use later to build on and help the student get the most benefit possible from the college experience.

Academic advisors focus on helping college students prepare for future careers.
Academic advisors focus on helping college students prepare for future careers.

In most countries, there is some type of formal training necessary in order to function in the field of academic advising. The successful advisor must be trained to articulate information to the student in a manner that will have relevance. This involves the necessity for a working knowledge of interpersonal communication. Advisors must also be trained on how to locate and connect the student with the best opportunities, as well as be able to properly evaluate test results and other factors that indicate the aptitudes possessed by the student.

It is not unusual for accrediting agencies in various countries to establish specific standards when it comes to the task of academic advising. The standards normally include guidelines for obtaining the proper educational credentials as well as personal ethics and conduct considered acceptable for interaction with traditional students ranging from junior high to college age. There is no one set of standards that apply to all nations, although there are a number of similarities shared in most locations. A local school system may require additional standards or skills that are above and beyond the basic standards specified by accrediting institutions.

At its core, academic advising is all about helping students to realize their full potential while enrolled at a learning institution, while also helping to prepare the student for success later in life. With both school advising and college advising, the process of constructive academic advising requires advisors to know how to evaluate data about students, sometimes ask questions that make students think, and provide the students with information about options they may never have known existed.

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