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How to Plan Effective Outreach and Materials for the "Advising Crunch"

by Maddie Anthes

While advising takes place throughout the academic year (and sometimes over the summer!), academic advising before registration is often the most time-consuming and stressful season for advisors. Advising can feel overwhelming, especially for those with high caseloads, looming deadlines, and campus commitments. 


I have a background in academic advising and coaching, and even though I am not in an advising position anymore, I know how challenging advising season can feel. It always seems to creep up faster than anticipated, and without planning and preparation, it’s easy to feel like you have more on your plate than you can manage. 


That’s why the folks at CEL and I put together a flash workshop on preparing for advising seasonand registration. At this workshop we heard from participants about some of the challenges with advising – namely, the difficulties of managing time and high caseloads. 


As we discussed at the workshop, putting some time into planning your outreach and materials now can save you stress and work later. 


Here are a few things to consider as registration approaches. This worksheet can help you organize your ideas:

Advising Plan Worksheet
Download • 16KB


1. What materials can you provide students to help them prepare for their advising appointment?


Consider what materials would be useful for students to prepare for advising appointments. What checksheets, advising guides, websites, or worksheets can you send to students in advance? Not sure what your program or department already has? Ask your chair or some of the other seasoned vets in your department. 


2. What materials could you create or build to support students?


After examining the existing materials, consider what materials students are missing. Talk to your advisees about what they’d find helpful; if you don’t have time to create anything this semester, it can be a project for the future. 



3. How will you communicate expectations with students?


What do you want students to do before they come for your advising appointment, and how can you communicate this with them? We hope that students read all of our emails but think about other ways to reach out to them as well. Announcements in class with deadline reminders, social media posts, and announcements through existing platforms like D2L and Starfish can help. The key is making your expectations clear and explicit. 



4. How do you want to manage and structure the appointments themselves?


When you communicate with students, one of the most important things to tell them is how you’ll be conducting your advising sessions. Consider if you’ll have students sign up for appointments in Starfish, use a paper sign up on your door, drop in during open hours, or have virtual advising sessions, for example. 


5. Would group advising be a useful way to manage your caseload?


Group advising is a helpful way to manage a large caseload. There are several ways you can use group advising, depending on your students’ needs. You can group students by year, academic or research interest, or cohort, for instance. You could also have information sessions lead by a faculty member where students and other faculty members can all get information about scheduling together; afterward, students meet with their advisor to discuss their individual plans. Or, you can have students sign up for time slots together to discuss course registration and making an academic plans. There are many ways to configure group advising, so consider if this is a way that can save you time and energy. 


6. What information do you want to cover at each session?


There’s a lot to remember around registration – courses, prerequisites, Genera Education requirements, and more. It can be too much to remember on the spot, so I recommend creating a checklist for yourself to refer to throughout each advising session:

Advising Checklist
Download • 7KB

This is a simple way to reduce your mental load during registration and make sure you’re covering all the important topics. 


Creating a clear, consistent, and well-communicated plan can alleviate headaches along the way. Putting some time and effort into your materials and your advising sessions can save you time in the long run and help establish a strong advising relationship between you and your advisees. 


The last thing I’ll add is that at the CEL flash workshop, we also had participants reflect on the most meaningful aspect of advising. Every single participant reflected that working with students was the most rewarding aspect of advising. Making meaningful connections with students and helping them succeed is why we’re all here and is why advising is such an important role. Hopefully some of these tips can clear away some of the stress and make room for more meaningful advising experiences.  


Madeline Anthes is Assistant Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In her role she collaborates with faculty and staff to create pathways for student success. She has a deep background working directly with students, and with various retention and student success initiatives.


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