Advising handbook, faculty advising handbook, key elements of an advising handbook

Academic Advising Resources


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Producing A Comprehensive Academic Advising Handbook For Faculty Utilization
Authored By: Jerry L. Ford

Using a comprehensive academic advising handbook that is attractive, useful, versatile, and inexpensive is the cornerstone of a well-developed and implemented academic advising program. The interweaving of faculty enthusiasm and active participation in both planning and implementing all of the steps and procedures is the mortar of such an academic advising program. The following seven steps have proven very effective in handbook utilization and development.

Obtaining the Commitment

The appropriate campus administrator(s) must make a threefold commitment-financial resources, human resources, and zealous endorsement-to develop an advising handbook. The administration must demonstrate commitment by providing the financial resources necessary for the completion and survival of the handbook project. The administration must also commit the human resources necessary for the development and production of the handbook. And, finally, the administration must zealously support and endorse the utilization of the handbook by the faculty once the handbook project has been completed. Without the administrative commitment, the project's effectiveness will be severely hindered.

Clarifying Responsibility

The administration must designate the office, department, and/or person responsible for developing and producing the handbook and the chain of command to be followed in seeking assistance with major decisions and budget considerations. A specific office and person must be designated, or the handbook, being everyone's business, is not completed because it becomes nobody's business.

Identifying the Objectives and Purposes

The following critical questions should be addressed when determining the purposes of the advising handbook:

A. Who is the targeted audience, or who will use the handbook on campus? Should the handbook be designed for:

  • All faculty?
  • Faculty in only one college/school?
  • Faculty in a single department?
  • Peer advisors?
  • Professional advisors?
  • Staff Personnel?
  • Advising center personnel?
  • All of the above or some of the above?

B. What are some of the general purposes/objectives of the advising handbook? General purposes might include:

  • Promoting quality academic advising
  • Improving academic advising
  • Educating faculty advisors
  • Assisting students to get a 'fair shake'
  • Helping faculty members to advise properly
  • Using the handbook as a training aid
  • Raising the profile and importance of academic advising
  • Providing a definition of good academic advising 

C. What are the specific purposes of the handbook? The academic advising handbook might include some or all of the following specific purposes:

  • To provide correct and accurate information
  • To provide concise information
  • To provide consistent information
  • To provide referral sources/resources
  • To articulate administration's policies and procedures
  • To provide standardized assistance to students
  • To provide descriptions of the advising process
  • To define good advisement
  • To facilitate continuous, ongoing advisor training
  • To provide resource materials and information
  • To simplify the advisement process
  • To consolidate advising information
  • To disseminate current information to all advisors
  • To establish responsibilities and procedures for advisors
  • To communicate the philosophy and goals of advising
  • To serve as a quick and easy reference for advising-related questions

D. How can faculty provide significant input? For maximum advising success, strategies and procedures for faculty involvement and participation can be provided through combinations of the following:

  • Questionnaires for faculty
  • Discussion groups
  • Committees
  • Informal suggestions
  • Formal planning sessions
  • Memos or letters both paper and electronic
  • Administration/faculty workshops
  • Advisor/advisee workshops
  • Special requests from faculty

Developing the Content

The content of the handbook will determine whether or not the intended users actually utilize the handbook. Closely allied to the purpose and objectives, the content should be a conduit for achieving those objectives. The content should include some or all of the following as related to the specific audience for which the handbook is being developed:

  • Definitions of the advisor and the advising process
  • Responsibilities of the advisor, both general and specific
  • Specific regulations/guidelines for assisting during the registration/scheduling process
  1. Ground rules for placing students in the appropriate English classes
  2. Guidelines for advising students into the appropriate mathematics classes
  3. Course sequencing guidelines
  4. Unique issues
  • Academic policies and procedures
  • Philosophy and objectives of the advising system
  • Advising techniques
  • Examples of advising forms used by advisors and students
  • Directory of various on-campus assistance sources for referral purposes
  • Legal responsibilities of advisors (Buckley Amendment)
  • Procedures for advising specific populations of students
  1. Students on probation
  2. Provisionally admitted students
  3. Teacher certification candidates
  4. Transfer students
  • Advising schedule/calendar as it relates to the registration schedule, emphasizing key dates
  • Easily used table of contents
  • Appendixes with tables or charts summarizing advanced standing--CLEP, ACT, SAT, etc.
  • Student assistance items
  1. Time management guidelines
  2. Help for low-achieving advisees--a self-inquiry routine for advisors
  3. Listening skills summary
  4. Study tips for the learner
  5. Scholastic difficulty analysis form
  6. Sample lecture notes
  • Characteristics of a good advisor
  • Strategies of advisement
  • Referral skills summary
  • The do's of academic advising
  • The don't's of academic advising
  • Thirty reminders of effective advising
  • Letter of explanation briefly describing the organizational pattern of the handbook
  • Complete bibliography listing the sources of all handbook entries and sources of material

The following seven points are important in selecting the content for the faculty advising handbook. The first three items--the 'Should Not's'--are especially noteworthy.

  • The handbook should not duplicate the catalog - unless it summarizes or clarifies items in the catalog.
  • The handbook should not duplicate the regular faculty handbook (produced by the faculty senate/assembly or by the institution's administration).
  • The handbook should not duplicate the student handbook published by the student affairs, student services, or student development office.
  • The various sections of the handbook might be color coded-utilizing a different color for each section.
  • The various sections of the handbook might be emphasized with tabs on the edges of the pages.
  • In order to make the advising handbook interesting and versatile, utilize quotations, poems, definitions where extra space is available at the bottom of pages or at the end of lists.
  • Pictures might also be incorporated in the handbook when space is a luxury.

Selecting Organizational Pattern

The material included in the advising handbook must be organized in such a way that it is as easily accessible to users as possible. The format or organizational pattern for the handbook is, therefore, of critical importance. The following three categories of information surface as necessary for inclusion in any advising handbook:

  • Essential information about the role of the advisor and about advising regulations in general
  • Articles and other resource materials useful to the advisor who wishes additional help in improving advising know-how
  • Pertinent information pertaining to specific departments and to specific regulations at the institution for which the handbook is being developed

A simplified seven-item outline for a faculty-advising handbook is exhibited below. The outline exemplifies a handbook with an organizational pattern based on the three previously mentioned categories.

  • Table of Contents
  • Letter of Introduction/Explanation
  • Section One-General Research Data
  • "Advising Mission Statement" of the institution
  • Definition of advising
  • Core values of advising

Roles and functions of advisors

  • Objectives of advisors
  • Limitations of advisors
  • Section Two-Resource Materials
  • General responsibilities of the advisor
  • General responsibilities of the advisee
  • Characteristics of a good advisor
  • Referral summary
  • Time management hints
  • Legal issues in advising
  • Section Three-Specific Department/Campus Regulations
  • Specific advisor responsibilities
  • What should advisors be expected to do at XXU
  • Guidelines for English placement
  • Ground rules for math placement
  • Bibliography
  • Appendixes

Other categories that might be included in the organizational pattern are:

  • Section depicting examples of all forms used in advising on campus
  • General education requirements (not a duplication of the institution's catalogue)
  • Campus services available-local referral sources
  • General information related to advising philosophy/mission

Final Production

The final phase includes manuscript preparation, layout and design, and methods of distribution.   An important consideration is the level of technological sophistication of the campus.   Will the final product be printed, bound, and distributed as a hard copy? Be produced and distributed on a computer diskette for use on individual faculty computers?   Be distributed on-line on the campus computer network?   Or, is there some other technologically advanced distribution system unique to the specific campus setting? Whatever the method, the preparation of a flow chart or production schedule, identifying deadlines and the person or office responsible for each step, is a very important consideration.


As with most publications in academia, the advising handbook will be out of date the moment it is published; therefore, one must address the issue of how often the handbook should be updated, revised, and produced. Since changes occur in the academic setting on a regular and an irregular basis, and since advisors must be informed of these changes, the timetable for updating the handbook becomes even more critical.

Such items as the manner in which the handbook is bound, the urgency of the specific policy change, the staff support available for processing and distributing the update, etc. will help determine the timing on any updates.  Normally, the handbook will be updated, revised, or reprinted annually. If the handbook has been bound in a loose-leaf binder, it may be updated more often than annually and with far less expense.

Several weeks prior to any planned revision of the handbook, various departments on campus that have information essential to the success of the advising system should be notified for their input and the inclusion of their materials in the revised handbook. This notification will inform them of the time schedule for the handbook revision. If various departments have specific pages in the handbook, it is helpful for copies of these pages to be sent to those individuals with a note reminding them of the revision deadlines. The person in charge of typing the updates should make certain that all departments have

responded to the request for updated information.

In summary, the development of an academic advising handbook for faculty embodies continual investigation and change. Involved individuals must envision the handbook as a two-part entity. The first part becomes a superstructure or skeleton similar to an outline that can withstand frequent changes. The ideas, procedures, and suggestions--the second part--that fill in the outline or superstructure may be changed in whole or part at any time without disturbing the basic structure. This creates a highly usable product that will most nearly meet the needs of a diversified user group. The handbook developer should think of the handbook as a firm superstructure with flexible, changeable parts. Then the unique needs of departments and individuals can be addressed in the college or university setting.


Ford, Jerry. Producing a Comprehensive Academic Advising Handbook. NACADA Journal. 3 (2) October, 1983, 61-68.

Ford, Jerry, and Ford, Sheila Stoma.   Step-by-Step Guide to Producing a Comprehensive Academic Advising Handbook.  NACADA Journal. 13 (2) Fall, 1993, 50-51.

Cite the above resource using APA style as:
Ford, J. L. (2003). Producing a comprehensive academic advising handbook for faculty utilization. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources website


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