Priorities for Effective Advising

At Dickinson, we understand academic advising to be an important dimension of teaching.  Designing an educational plan can be an education in itself.  Like teaching styles, advising styles may vary.  Moreover, as in any educational endeavor, students are ultimately responsible for their work and decisions.

Regardless of individual style, however, effective advisors attend to a few key priorities, whether in person or through referrals to campus colleagues:

  1. Advise students to explore their intellectual interests and to take advantage of the learning opportunities available to them
  2. Help students to articulate their educational objectives
  3. Provide guidance about developing a coherent academic program
  4. Encourage students to prepare for the transition from college to the world of work and further education.

1. Advise students to explore their intellectual interests and to take advantage of the learning opportunities available to them

Although academic advisors have a uniquely important role in guiding students, advising students is ultimately a responsibility shared with the broader campus.  Dickinson is a community of inquiry, and academic advisors may encourage students to work with other members of the campus to address facets of their educational experience.  Instructors, administrators, athletic coaches, and peers are important contributors to a student’s learning experience.  In addition, academic departments and offices such as the Center for Global Study and Engagement, the Career Center, and the Division of Student Life play crucial roles in providing academic and career-related advice both to individual students and to the college community as a whole.  Ideally, over four years, students will work with a variety of people and forge connections among their educational, personal, and professional goals.

2. Help students articulate their educational objectives

Academic advisors are well-positioned to help students articulate their own educational goals.  To make informed decisions, students should reflect upon the relationship between their overarching interests and specific decisions such as selecting courses, studying off campus or participating in internships and co-curricular activities. 

3. Provide guidance about developing a coherent academic program

Likewise, academic advisors are well-positioned to help students develop their academic program.  To make the most of their educational experience, students should understand not only Dickinson’s requirements but also the rationale behind them.  What’s the logic of Dickinson’s approach to the liberal arts?  How can distribution and departmental requirements fit together to support a student’s interests and goals?

4. Encourage students to prepare for the transition from college to the world of work and further education.

Over the course of a four-year experience, students should prepare for life after graduation, whether they plan to start a career, pursue graduate education, or undertake some other endeavor.  One measure of our success as a College is how well we prepare our students for productive and rewarding careers that suit their skills, interests, and values.   Students will be ready to engage such questions at different times, and their plans are likely to change—probably more than once!  In any case, staff members in the Advising Office, the Career Center, and Student Life are available to have developmentally appropriate conversations with students on request.