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Voices of the Global Community


Erin Justyna, Texas Tech University
Rebecca Daly Cofer, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College

Editor’s Note: The following article was developed from a presentation given at the NACADA Annual Conference in San Antonio, October 2009.

Erin Justyna and Rebecca Daly Cofer.jpgIt is sometimes said that we can’t really train someone to be an advisor; it’s just “learn as you go.” While this has some validity, there certainly are things new advisors should know as they embark on this wonderful career path. The following list contains ten tips to ease the new advisor’s transition into the field or to remind veteran advisors of the things they should keep in mind when working with new colleagues.

Tip 1: Observe experienced advisors and use them as a resource.

Advisors should not be afraid to ask for help from more seasoned advisors. Few situations are completely new; there will always be another advisor who has been through something similar. Even new advisors in “one person shops” can find mentors from another college who can offer new perspectives and unbiased advice through networking across campus, at conferences, or on the NACADA new advising professionals listserv. 

Tip 2: Remember That Advising is an Experiential Process.

“New advisors must realize that…the art of advising…is in large part learned in the advising chair” (Folsom, 2007, p. 13). Many advisors have little or no professional training when they enter their jobs.  Advisors can use the resources available not only in their office, but across campus, and throughout the association. NACADA has a wealth of resources available to advisors online and at events. If an advisor sees a need for training from someone outside the campus, the NACADA Consultants and Speakers Service can provide assistance.

Tip 3: Set and Evaluate Professional Goals.

As a new advisor, writing in a journal can make it easier to articulate goals and gain motivation to take steps to reach those goals. Goals become a road map for the journey to excellence. Advisors should be careful not to just write down goals, but should take time to reevaluate the goals periodically and give themselves credit for goals they have attained.

Tip 4: Take Part in Professional Development Opportunities Whenever Possible.

Advisors should attend presentations available on their campus as well as local, regional, and national conferences. Memberships in state and national organizations give advisors access to resources that are otherwise unattainable (journals, online clearinghouses, etc). Advisors should challenge themselves to present and publish once they have joined these groups, starting small and working up to greater involvement. Creating and continually updating a professional portfolio is also a great way to develop and measure progress. (Find out more about professional portfolios in the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources.) 

Tip 5: Know When, Where and How to Refer.

“Seldom do new advisor training programs address the art of referral” (Jordan, 2007, p. 86). Advisors need to acknowledge their own limits and create partnerships across their own campuses. Even the most seasoned advisor should not be afraid to send a student somewhere else for help. Effective referrals help students develop self-advocacy and awareness as they obtain the most valid information (see NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources referral tips).

Tip 6: Advisors Must Take Care of Themselves

One advisor can’t do everything. Take a lunch, leave work in the office, and build breaks or down time into the schedule. Don’t wait for special occasions; take time to celebrate the little things.

Tip 7: Find a Niche Within the Office.

There is more to advising than helping students plan their class schedules. Brochures, newsletters and presentations must be created, Web sites need to be maintained, research on changing student populations must be undertaken, and assessments must be done. New advisors who volunteer for these crucial tasks make themselves invaluable.

Tip 8: Stay Positive About Students and Advising.

Advisors often receive notes of affirmation from students and coworkers; they should place these notes in their professional portfolios. Computer screens are great places for favorite quotations. Student success stories should be published on-line and in brochures and newsletters. Above all, advisors should display a ready smile and a sense of humor.

Tip 9: Read a Variety of Books.

There are a multitude of available reading selections within the field and outside it; check coworkers’ bookshelves, campus libraries, and on-line book lists, e.g., the NACADA Journal Book Reviews. Don’t limit reading selections to only professional books and Web sites; check out memoirs and fictional books for inspiration.

Tip 10: Be Flexible.

Advising is never dull. While that fact should be celebrated, it also means that a great deal of flexibility is required of professionals within the field. Advisors never know what lies on the other side of the door and thus should be prepared to change course multiple times within the work day.


Advising is a special field that provides us with the opportunity to make significant differences in students’ lives. Stepping into the role of advisor can be overwhelming especially when a new advisor doesn’t know where to begin. With the help of this list and the resources noted here (including the New Advisor Guidebook), advisors can begin their careers with a feeling of confidence and positive anticipation.

Erin Justyna
Student Disability Services
Texas Tech University

Rebecca Daly Cofer
Student Development Specialist
Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College


Folsom, P. (2007). Setting the stage: Growth through year one and beyond: The New Advisor Development Chart. In P. Folsom & B. Chamberlain (Eds.), The New Advisor Guidebook: Mastering the Art of Advising Through the Fist Year and Beyond. (Monograph No.16). (pp. 13-21). Manhattan, KS: NACADA.

Jordan, P. (2007). Building relational skills: Building effective communication through listening, interviewing, and referral. In P. Folsom & B. Chamberlain (Eds.), The New Advisor Guidebook: Mastering the Art of Advising Through the Fist Year and Beyond. (Monograph No.16). (pp. 83-91). Manhattan, KS: NACADA.

Cite this article using APA style as: Justyna, E., & Daly Cofer, R. (2010, March). Ten 'must have' tips for new (and not so new) academic advisors. Academic Advising Today, 33(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Posted in: 2010 March 33:1


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