Advising first year students

I think those first few weeks of college are pretty critical. You, as the first academic advisor they meet, can play a big part in helping them get off on the right foot. Sure, you’ll talk with them about how to register for classes, about the different academic requirements, but here are some things that I think need to be said, too. They need an academic pep talk!

Value Of College

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1. Be enthusiastic about learning and classes. Learning should be the main goal for college students. Finally, after years of schooling, it’s COOL to be in SCHOOL. Sure, there’s LOTS to learn, both in class and out. Talk with them about learning. What do they need to do to get themselves ready to learn? Most of the preparation is attitude: an explicit motivation to engage the learning process, a willingness to concentrate on the task of learning, an openness to accept new ways of thinking and learning.

2. Encourage them to seek challenge and new ways of thinking about the world. There is probably no other time in their lives where it is expected that they will try on new ways of thinking, new ways of being in the world. It is through that openness and through that trying on of new ideas that they will discover who they are, what they are capable of, what they believe and know about the world.

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3. Accept the challenge of new approaches to learning and be okay with a struggle that might not always earn an A. This is a big one. Most first-year college students are used to excelling- many earned lots of A’s. Perhaps those A’s came fairly easily to them. If they just did the work and turned it in, they got A’s. An A doesn’t necessarily mean you learned the material or that you really understand it. Talk with your students about those times when your own grade might not have reflected how much you learned. Talk with them about the value of the struggle to learn difficult things.

4. Begin a relationship with your new advisees. Learn their names and where they are from. Find out where they live on campus and what they are interested in studying. Tell them a little about yourself.

5. Give advice- even if they don’t ask. Remember they know nothing about college and how your particular college works. Think about what you most needed to know when you first went to college. Or perhaps what you wished you knew when you first began your job at your college.

Are there things you think are crucial to tell your advisees?