Book by:
Review by: Deborah Childs
Off-Campus Student Services
Baltimore City Community College
Reisterstown Plaza Center

Parents preparing children for college have lived through the SATs, ACTs, college visits, college interviews, financial matters, and decision letters before students enroll for classes. Is academic advising on most parents’ “radar”? What is academic advising and how can parents be supportive of academic advising for their college-bound children?

A Family Guide to Academic Advising answers these questions and more in a concise and easy to read handbook. The book is intended for the families of first-year college students regardless of family level of college experience. Authors note that while “some aspects of college life remain constant, in many ways today’s college students are different from those of previous generations” (p.5); these differences can include such things as web based, paperless registration processes and readily accessible academic support services.

Among the topics covered are making academic decisions, differences between the high school and college academic environment, residential life, and a practical briefing on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and, most importantly, its ramifications for parental access to student information.

A definite strength is the book’s inclusion of over twenty “to do” items, called a Family Checklist, that appear throughout the text. The Family Checklist encourages parents to stay connected as their student transitions into college life. Authors point out that the academic advisor is one of the “few resource persons on campus with whom (the student) will be in contact from his first day of classes through graduation” (p.7). Family Checklist items can serve as meaningful starting points for discussions between first year college students and their families. One example is “We know approximately when mid-terms are over, and we have discussed our student’s results with him. If needed, we have also talked about campus resources to help him” (p. 21).

As a student services representative providing admissions, registration, and academic services at an off-campus site, I would definitely share this book with parents who accompany their children during the admissions process. The book contains information gems helpful not only to parents, but to students as well, such as: the importance of the syllabus; what to do if unsure of academic standing in a class; and the difference between course selection and scheduling.

The authors provide just the right information at a perfect pace; they strongly urge readers to encourage their children to “share responsibilities (with the advisor) for making sure she (the student) is on the right track” (p. 9). I recommend A Family Guide to Academic Advising for the advisor involved with parent orientation programs to give as a parting gift for each family.

A Family Guide to Academic Advising. (2003). Book by Donald C. Smith & Virginia N. Gordon. Review by Deborah Childs. NACADA/National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience. 32 pp., $3.00, (paperback), ISBN #1-889271-42-X.

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