Mention “advising students” as part of faculty workload, and people off-campus probably conjure warm images of a faculty member expansively chatting with a student, probably a major, about future plans, career prospects, and, of course, next semester’s schedule, which is always full of courses the student wants to take, that don’t conflict, and that fulfill requirements for the major.
And maybe that picture still holds at some schools. But on many campuses, “advising” first and foremost means the fall and spring advising seasons, in which faculty can meet with 30-50 students or more over a period of a few weeks, in order to help them get the courses they need to develop as students, but also to get through the degree in a reasonable period of time. At my campus, students have to get a PIN, which changes every semester, from their advisor in order to register for classes. In such a context, the kinds of conversations envisaged above aren’t going to happen. (To be fair, those kinds of expansive discussions can happen at other times during the semester–but that’s not what administrators mean when they talk about advising.)
The list of PINs came out this week at my campus, which means that the advising season is coming up soon. Here’re some strategies for efficient advising:
- Use a digital sign-up sheet. I’m not sure if we’re *required* to tape sign-up sheets to our door, but we are encouraged to do so, and students complain if they’re not there. Following George’s advice last year, I use Tungle.me to schedule appointments. I like this because all the appointments get pushed into my calendar, which helps me be more prepared. I can also contact the student easily if something goes wrong with my schedule. (An alternative: Google Calendar can handle appointment slots, if both parties use it.
- Another benefit of the digital sign-up sheet: It makes it easy for me to remind students to be prepared for advising! Students need to have *some* idea of the courses available, and what they might like to take–and what will work with their schedule. Your campus’s online portal for students probably lets them do a degree analysis, which they would ideally have done before arriving. A little reminder to students that they should have taken these small steps in enormously helpful.
- Follow the Tenured Radical’s advice, and make sure your advising workload is consistent with the rest of your department. In my department, one of the potential areas for inequity is that graduate advisors have a much lower workload than undergraduate advisors. First, our grad program is small, and second, there’s a bureaucratic mechanism for grad students to avoid the PIN requirement. It’s a dream! But that means that others in the department get hammered with students.
- Before the students show up, make a list of of emergency advising numbers. This can be on your computer, or a 3×5 card or sticky note by your phone, but it’s really handy to have on hand the phone numbers for various resources available to you: the registrar, dean’s office, department administrative assistant, advising center . . . it will be different at each school. Not having to look those numbers up is handy when time is short.
- It’s also probably a good idea to make notes after advising appointments. Some of your advisees you’ll know well, because they’ve been in one or more of your classes. Others you only see during advising season–but that still could be six or more meetings over the course of their career. The more you can remember about their interests, constraints, and so forth, the better the experience will be for you both.
What about you? Do you have tips for advising students during registration season? Let us know in comments.