Amanda Baldridge, Murray State College
Academic advising and student retention/success are being considered across college campuses nationwide. As higher learning institutions, we spend a great deal of time devising and implementing ways to help our students engage in our services, set goals for themselves, and learn those valuable skills needed for success in the classroom and in life.
As I reflected on a favorite collection of stories that features an array of heartwarming characters who set off on grand adventures, I started thinking about some of their famous quotes and how they really could be applied to academic advising and student success.
One of the most important things I can do as an academic advisor is to help my students understand this:
“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – A.A. Milne (Christopher Robin)
Empowering students to believe in themselves and their abilities is invaluable. Students will face times of frustration, doubt, and insecurity. Reminding them that they possess the potential, that they are brave, that they are strong, and that they are smart will help them dig deep and find the perseverance needed to continue on another day.
“Before beginning a Hunt, it is wise to ask someone what you are looking for before you begin looking for it.” (Winnie the Pooh)
That first advisement session is critical in helping students find a direction. How are new students supposed to be successful if they do not understand what they are trying to achieve? As academic advisors, we have the unique opportunity to assist students in drawing out their academic map. We assist in identifying what they are looking for, and we help map out the trail to get there by establishing goals, priorities, and services.
Colleges and universities spend a great deal of time implementing services to assist students while on their campuses. Most of these services, however, require that the students take advantage of their offerings and seek them out.
“It’s always useful to know where a friend-and-relation is, whether you want him or whether you don’t.” (Winnie the Pooh)
Advisors need to be knowledgeable about services on campus and help direct students to those friendly faces that can offer valuable assistance to help students persist to graduation.
“They’re funny things, Accidents. You never have them till you’re having them.” (Winnie the Pooh)
Anyone who is in the business of serving students understands that life happens. Students’ best-laid plans are often derailed by work, family, friends, etc. Being open to assisting students through these bumps in the road by offering support, advice, alternate routes, encouragement, and a listening ear is needed for retaining those students faced with obstacles.
A big part of my job is to help returning students who have dropped out as they return to school. Often, my first glance at their transcript can be scary!
“I don’t see much sense in that, said Rabbit. “No,” said Pooh humbly, “there isn’t. But there was going to be when I began it. It’s just that something happened to it along the way.” (Winnie the Pooh)
I think this is how most students feel. They started out on a path for success and at the time it made perfect sense; something happened along the way and things ended up in a big mess. As an advisor, what a great opportunity I have to help this student make sense of his academic career again. By refocusing, making new plans and new goals, there is hope for sense once more!
“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.” (Winnie the Pooh)
I know how frustrating it can be when advising students and it seems like they just aren’t listening! This is great advice to be patient; I do not know what is going on in the heads of my students. I do not always know the battles they are facing, the events that are impacting their lives, and what they are trying to work through. By remaining patient and waiting until they are open to listening, we can progress toward reaching the goals we have established for their success.
We all face stress. We get overwhelmed, our lives appear to be spinning out of control, and we wonder how we can manage EVERYTHING that is going on.
“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.” (Winnie the Pooh)
Our students are very vulnerable to stress during their college years. If we can get them to focus, list all the stressors, and identify ways to cope appropriately, students often find that when they put words to the problem, it isn’t as big and unmanageable as it once seemed.
It is critical that academic advisors establish friendly, open relationships with students.
“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest, waiting for others to come to you; you have to go to them sometimes.” (Winnie the Pooh)
As advisors, if we have established positive relationships with our advisees and we have empowered them to be advocates for themselves, they will seek us out and come find us, instead of waiting to be found. Students who take the initiative to seek out help instead of waiting for someone to offer assistance have a better chance of succeeding and persisting.
“Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?” (Winnie the Pooh)
Sometimes it takes a jolt to the brain to get it started again! As advisors, we need to be willing to provide that jolt in a safe and caring environment to our students who need a jump start to get going again.
Academic advisors have the honor of educating students in matters of the classroom and life.
“To the uneducated, an A is just three sticks.” (Winnie the Pooh)
As educators we know better; an A for our students means determination, hard work, engagement, retention, and success! It is our job to bring meaning to our students so they will rise to the challenge of excellence in and out of the classroom.
A final thought:
“A little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference.” (Winnie the Pooh)
Director of Academic Advising
Murray State College
Cite this article using APA style as: Baldridge, A. (2013, September). Advising 100 acre wood style. Academic Advising Today, 36(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]