Academic Advising Resources



Working Advising Magic: Using a Freshman Orientation Course as an Advising Tool
Authored by: Art Farlowe


An advisor has many goals to accomplish during an advisement session. Some of these may include:

  • get the student on the right track
  • explore the student's interests/strengths
  • get to know the student on a personal basis
  • set goals for the future
  • help the student to become familiar with available campus resources or university policies and procedures
  • serve as a mentor/friend/role model to the student.

It may be next to impossible to accomplish all of these goals in a brief advising session. A tool to assist in the advisement of freshmen students is a freshman orientation course.The Psychology Department at the University of South Carolina offers three major-specific sections of the University's renowned University 101 course. Psychology professional staff members serve as instructors. We believe that it is vital to set up the University 101 class as 'major specific' during the first week. In each psychology section we do team building exercises immediately to form a group and create an open environment for future discussions. This also ensures that the instructor gets to know each student.

Students are assigned a project in social psychology; they write papers about groups they join during their first semester in college. This project is assigned the first week of class and a social psychology professor explains what social psychology is and how it is used directly with people and groups. This is a perfect fit for an orientation class. Assigning a project such as this exposes students to a different area of their chosen major and provides opportunities to further explore the major.

On the first day of class students are asked to write down who they are sitting beside, what the other person is wearing and what the instructor is wearing. These sheets are turned in to the instructor who explains that at the end of the semester the students will be asked to remember what they have written. This is used as an example of memory and discussed as a part of psychology.

One of the outcomes of advisement is goal setting. In this class, students also list two sets of goals they have for the year; one set for the end of the first semester and the other set for the end of the academic year. The instructor/advisor was able to read the goals and have conversations with students about the goals. This assignment, which is mailed back to students at the appropriate time, helps students focus on their academic and social goals early in their college career. Receiving their goals in the mail also reminds the students of the goals they set in August. Some students indicated that they had achieved their goals while others realized that they needed to set more realistic and achievable goals.

Advisors seek to teach students about important academic policies. In a classroom setting, there are methods in place to see if students grasp some of the main ideas concerning important university regulations. Readings are assigned dealing with university policies and procedures and the university Honor Code. Students also are expected to read sections of a textbook with sections explaining academic deficiency, grade point averages and scholarship requirements. A pop quiz is given on these assignments.

Numerous classroom activities facilitate advisor/instructor and student interaction and lay the groundwork for on-going advisement. In order to assess if a student is in the correct major the student and advisor need to explore all aspects of the major. This may help the student determine where his/her strengths lie. The Psychology Department makes this possible by mandating student participation in a psychology research project. A research faculty member explains his research to the class and interacts with the class regarding how he conducts the research. This experience helps students explore another area of psychology and question if this is an area of interest.

Carolina's Psychology Department hosts an annual Chili Cook-Off as a social event for all psychology faculty, staff and students. The Chili Cook-Off attracts around 200 people each fall. Students in the University 101 psychology sections are assigned to the Chili Cook Off which means they must talk to at least one faculty member they do not know. During the next class period students report on who they met and what they learned. This presents an opportunity for faculty and students to connect outside the traditional advising session.

Advisors are also major supporters of campus resources. However, when an advisor only sees a student a few times each semester it may be difficult to refer students at the appropriate time. In the freshman orientation course an advisor/instructor can be assured that students are introduced to a host of campus resources. Students in the psychology sections participate in programs from the Career Center Counseling Center, Study Abroad/International Programs Office, Student Health Center, Campus Recreation and National Student Exchange. Students are exposed, on a regular basis, to the university's Supplemental Instruction program. The Psychology Undergraduate Student Services Office presents a program detailing how to get ready for graduate school; they are given a year-by-year planner of things to do to prepare for graduate study. This helps advisors achieve their objective of assisting students in setting achievable/realistic goals.

Finally, students can be advised within the freshman orientation course. This may be facilitated in a group advising setting or by seeing students one-on-one during scheduled class times. In the USC Psychology department we complete the enrollment process by advising the class as a group. Undergraduate Peer Counselors from the Psychology Undergraduate Student Services Office and an advisor from the of Arts and Sciences Dean's Office attend the class to assist in advisement. The College advisor is present to assist students who decide to switch majors. By facilitating advisement in class we have 100% attendance and everyone receives the same written material and hears the same information.

The Psychology University 101 sections have been very successful from an advisement stand point. Students in these sections have the opportunity to do self-examination early on in their academic careers. While a majority of these students have remained psychology majors, some developed other areas of interest and changed majors. This helps students find their right place. One student enjoyed the information about psychology research and statistics so much that he decided he would rather be a math major. Another student is already progressing on her graduate school preparation plan by being involved as a student research assistant as a second semester freshman. One student has completed the paperwork to do the National Student Exchange program at the University of Hawaii.

Noted student development theorist Alexander Astin has long asserted that involvement is the key to student development and student satisfaction. Developmental advising is largely a continuation of the involvement theory as advisors actively engage students in decision making about life goals as well as course selection. Astin has found that students are more successful if they are more involved with the collegiate experience. The freshman orientation course allows freshmen to become actively involved in an on-going advisement process that leads to their successful transition to university life.

Art Farlowe
Undergraduate Coordinator, Psychology Department
University of South Carolina

Recommended Reading:

Astin, Alexander. (1977). Four Critical Years. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bullock, Emily, Reardon, Robert.(2004)Holland's Theory and Implications for Academic Advising and Career Counseling, NACADA Journal 24(1&2): 111-123.

Frost, Susan H. (2000). Academic Advising for Student Success: A System of Shared Responsibility. (1991 ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Reports). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Gordon, Virginia N. and Habley, Wesley R. (Eds). (2000). Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

 Gordon, Jack. (Ed). (2003) Pfeiffer's Classic Activities for Building Better Teams. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Stein, Ruth and Hurd, Sandra (Ed). (2000). Using Student Teams in the Classroom: A Faculty Guide. Williston, VT: Anker Publishing.

Wheeler, Gary S. (Ed). (2002). Teaching and Learning in College: A Resource for Educators, 4 th Edition. Elyria, OH: Info-Tec.

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Cite this using APA style as:

Farlowe, A. (2006). Working advising magic: Using a freshman orientation course as an advising tool.Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources website

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