College Academic Advisor  What They Do

Just the Facts


Insider Info

dotThere are a lot of decisions to make in college and university. Academic advisors help students make the right choices.

"An academic advisor guides students through that process of self-development and academic process by teaching about processes, rules and course selections," says Roberta Flaherty. She is the executive director of the National Academic Advising Association.

With their advisor's guidance, students "learn to seek information, make decisions and take responsibility for their own development," says Flaherty.

dotAcademic life can be a bumpy ride, explains college coordinator Patrick Ouellette, and may require dealing with unforeseen potholes and some tricky re-routing.

"It's my duty to try and keep track of student progress in the program, as well as to help identify and counsel students who are at risk of failing courses," says Ouellete. "This counseling covers everything from helping them find solutions to improve their academic performance to suggesting exploring other avenues or programs.

"I also assist in directing and guiding students through to the appropriate resource for everything from financial aid to course appeals."

dotUrsula Murray is director of academic advising at a university. She says that responsibilities may also include advocating (or going to bat for) students when they run into problems with the registrar, a dean or another school official.

When working with students, Murray will also "clarify their academic goals, assist them identify roadblocks to achieving their goals and refer them to appropriate resources."

dotThose roadblocks may include class scheduling, transfer credits and personal issues involving adjustment to college life. Sometimes those personal issues can be the most challenging -- and rewarding -- to work through, according to Julie Steinke. She is the director of student athlete support services at a university.

"I coordinate programs that focus on their personal development (substance abuse, financial responsibility, improving athletic performance, etc.)," says Steinke, "and sometimes just act as a personal counselor or someone for them to talk to about the stresses in their lives."

dotThe academic advisor's role isn't limited to his or her school's own offerings, nor does it end when the student graduates.

"The academic advisor also may provide some counseling to students regarding options to consider after program completion (post-diploma programs, university articulation agreement opportunities, effective steps to transition to the workforce, etc.)," says William Garbarino. He's a professor at a college.

dotAt some universities and colleges, academic advisors are also involved in the student recruitment process. Debbie Graczyk is an advisor and coordinator at a college.

She explains that the recruitment "is done mainly through corporate visits, education fairs and working with transfer advisors at the community colleges."

Students aren't the only ones benefiting from the academic advisor's guidance and experience. Academic advisors may also help keep fellow advisors, teachers and staff members informed of school policies, procedures, courses, schedules and campus activities.

At a Glance

Help college and university students make decisions

  • Work with students on academic goals and personal issues
  • You must be optimistic, a good listener and thick-skinned
  • A specialized degree and hands-on experience are important