This page has been developed to assist you in your role as an advisor. It contains general information regarding advising, as well as information specific to faculty serving as advisors of First-Year students. It has been designed to serve both as a reference during advising sessions as well as a resource containing other pertinent information regarding your role as an advisor. Click sections below for further information on the topic of interest.
“Good advising may be the single most underestimated characteristic of a successful college experience.”
Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds (2001)
Faculty advisors are an extremely important part of the university‘s student retention effort. Effective advising is much more than helping students with course selection and scheduling. The faculty advisor performs a number of key tasks including providing the student with information about academic requirements, referring the student to other campus offices and services, assisting the student in the selection of a major field and helping the student develop a comprehensive academic plan for graduation. And last but not least, faculty advisors help the ―traditional age‖ college student make the difficult transition from adolescent to young adult.
If you ask incoming students what they expect from an advisor, most will not have a clear idea. Those who do have expectations generally think that their advisor should know all the answers. They anticipate that their advisors will tell them exactly what to do and when to do it - what courses to take, which major to pursue – in short, will enable them to graduate in four stress-free years.
Most of us are not, and should not be, the magical person who has all of the answers.
Primarily, an advisor‘s role should be to:
Ultimately, an advisor would also know how to:
The first and last items should both comfort and challenge you. No, you don‘t have to know everything. That is neither possible nor desirable. But you do need to know how to find information, and – perhaps the most challenging aspect of advising – you need to learn when not to give students answers, but instead teach them to answer their own questions.
In order for the academic advising relationship to be truly effective, the advisee must also play an active role. As an advisee, it is the student‘s role to:
1. Attempt to become acquainted with the advisee in as many aspects as possible.
Getting to know the advisees outside the formality of the office when possible, and not only during class scheduling or unusual circumstances, can be extremely valuable. Knowing the academic abilities and background of the advisee is also important. Having good documentation (the Student Profile sheet) such as rank in high school graduating class, ACT or SAT scores, transfer courses and grades from other universities, and present academic status is essential when assessing a student's ability and future direction.
2. Explore the objectives, interests, and motivations of the advisee.
An advisee's actual certainty of future objectives and goals can be difficult to ascertain. Having some knowledge of your advisee's non-academic background -- such as home influence, hobbies, and friends – can lead to a more thorough type of advisement.
3. Develop rapport with advisees.
If the student knows you as a professional person who has a genuine interest in students, the advisement process becomes much more beneficial for both you and your advisee.
4. Become knowledgeable concerning university rules, policies, regulations, and procedures that affect academic programs and activity.
Every advisor must be well informed regarding current academic policies and procedures, for these are the foundations on which all advisement efforts will be built. Review of prior policies and study of new policy changes should be a regular activity of each advisor before beginning each registration period.
Suggestions for student involvement in campus activities is often the key to retention in school.
5. Evaluate student motivation.
Enhancing a student's motivation by capitalizing on good academic planning can be a very helpful strategy. While lack of motivation is generally recognized as the most common cause of poor academic performance, no clear cut methods to help a student achieve maximum motivation have been developed. Suggested strategies might include:
6. Be aware of the limitations of responsibility which place the burden of the advisement process on the shoulders of the student.
Obviously, you cannot make decisions for your advisee, but you can be a sympathetic listener and offer various alternatives for your advisee's consideration. Advisors cannot increase the ability of a student, but can encourage the maximum use of that ability and help develop decision making skills. While advisors cannot change some aspects of class schedules or employment loads, the students can be referred to the proper offices for such adjustments when desirable.
7. Seek to determine the level of advisement appropriate for your own comfort and training.
Generally, advisors should not attempt to personally handle complex problems concerning financial aid, mental or physical health, personal or social counseling. When these situations do arise, you should refer students to professional personnel who are specially trained and knowledgeable about dealing with such problems.
As an advisor, it is important to keep notes of your discussions with students during advising sessions. These records can assist you in getting to know your advisees better by serving as a reminder of previous encounters. Documentation of what transpired during an advising appointment allows the advisor the opportunity to follow-up at the next meeting on an issue or assignment‖ given to the advisee. An accurate record of advising sessions can also help solve any disputes down the road over the content of previous advising meetings and serve as a legitimate protection against claims of erroneous advising.
Whether it is through the use of paper or electronic files, all advisors should have a method in place for keeping track of their discussions with each of their advisees. The University of St. Thomas requests that advisors maintain these records for at least four years.
What brings you in today?
How is your semester going?
Are any classes posing a particular challenge?
Which classes do you enjoy most?
What kind of connections have you made at St. Thomas outside of the classroom?
How do you like being a student at St. Thomas?
What kinds of things are you interested in, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Why do you think UST requires courses outside your major?
What have you learned this semester that has surprised and/or excited you?
Have you changed as a result of things you have learned this semester?
What part of the UST mission statement do you relate to the most strongly?
Have you been able to access your degree evaluation online?
Do you understand your degree evaluation?
Have you checked your mid-term grades? Were there any surprises?
What is your primary goal this semester?
What is your purpose in earning a degree from St. Thomas?
Have you decided on your major? How did you come to that decision?
What specific steps can you take to explore this major/career?
Faculty who report students missing from class play an important role in the university's retention efforts. Alerting the Office of Academic Counseling to the situation provides an opportunity for additional outreach to students who could be struggling with any number of issues which are affecting their class attendance and academic performance. A “missing” student would be defined as one having missed one consecutive week of class periods with no notice to the instructor. An "Academic Warning" icon appears next to each student's name on both the Summary Class List and the Detail Class List that faculty access through Murphy online. Clicking on this icon brings you to a page where you can send an alert message to the selected student.
All messages to the student will instruct them to speak to you, their instructor, about the situation. We believe that you are the first and most important point of contact for the student. A copy of your message will also automatically be sent to Academic Counseling. We will take the appropriate steps to contact and work with the student as the situation warrants.
|Chirayu Dongre||Computer and Information Sciences (CISC), Health & Human Performance, Justice & Peace Studies, Math|
|Elizabeth Dussol||Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Engineering, Philosophy, Physics, Psychology|
|David Moore||Geology, History, Social Work, Sociology|
|Kelly Petersen||English, Theater|
|Tonia Jones Peterson||Catholic Studies, Communication and Journalism, Environmental Studies, Geography|
|Drew Puroway||Art History, Business, Education, Modern & Classical Languages, Music, Political Science|
Since advisors maintain educational records -- records of advisees' grades and other academic information -- they must understand the provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (commonly referred to as The Buckley Amendment). Basically, this act provides students with access to information placed in their advising files. Furthermore, it ensures that only school officials with a legitimate educational interest may see the student's file. The student's permission must be obtained before any other party may have access to the student's file. Thus, advisors, upon request, must allow students access to their advising file. This fact, however, does exclude a student's right of access to personal notes that the advisor may have made during the advising sessions. Under this Act, these notes constitute records made by educational personnel and kept solely in their possession. Advisors may allow someone who temporarily performs his/her advising duties to see the notes; if the advisor is to be replaced permanently, however, he/she should remove any personal notes from the student's file before transferring the file to the replacement.
Under legislation, the student has the right to an informal hearing regarding material in his record. If at this hearing the student does not receive satisfaction, then he/she may insert explanatory material in the file. The Act specifically denies students the right to a hearing regarding grades received. The student, however, may challenge the accuracy of transferring grades to the student's record.
Information in the file may be sent to parents of financially dependent students without the student's written consent. The registrar's office usually maintains information regarding a student's status as a financial dependent. Institutional policy, however, will determine whether or not information must be sent to parents without the student's consent.
According to the Buckley Amendment, a record also must be kept of requests received from school officials to obtain information from the student's file. The record should not only identify the official making the request, but also the official's legitimate educational reason for requesting the information. The record should remain in the student's file. Each institution is individually responsible for determining which parties qualify as "school officials" and what constitutes a "legitimate educational interest."
Although the law recognizes the student's right to privacy of his/her educational records, it also recognizes the advisor's right to privileged communications. Thus, in an effort to help a student, advisors can discuss confidential information regarding that student with other appropriate individuals. The courts generally will respect the right to such communications and will not hold the advisor liable for statements considered as privileged communications. This right, however, is not an absolute one, and advisors must exercise good judgment in making all confidential statements. To determine the appropriateness of confidential discussions, an advisor should simply ask if such a discussion would serve the student's best interest.
At times, students will come to advisors with personal problems; normally these problems should remain confidential. In some instances, however, a student may tell the advisor of certain intentions that would prove harmful to the student or possibly to others, such as the intention to commit suicide or the desire to harm another person. Although the statements are made in confidence, an obligation rests with the advisor to disclose such information to an appropriate party, such as parents, an intended victim, a school psychologist, or police.
Advisors wishing to familiarize themselves with UST‘s institutional policies regarding implementation of the Buckley Amendment can view training materials on the University Registrar's website.
Students are placed into 1 of 3 levels:
Students who place into ENGL 201-204 generally have stronger than average English abilities; those who place into 121 (the largest group) are roughly average; those who place into ENGL110 are generally weaker. Students who place in ENGL110 are strongly recommended to take this course, although most have the option of starting in ENGL121.
A very few students decide not to take an English course their first semester; if so, they should take ENGL121 or ENGL 201-204 their second semester (ENGL110 is offered only in the fall).
Students who have already taken their first English course through Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or the transfer of college courses from another institution will proceed to the next appropriate level.
First-year students are initially assigned a math placement based on the result of their mathematics ACT/SAT score. Placements are based according to the following scale:
|ACT Math Score||Course Placement|
|19 or lower||Math 005|
|20 – 21||Math 101 or lower|
22 – 23
Math 108 or lower
|24 – 25||
Math 111 or lower
|26 or higher||
Math 113 or lower
|SAT Math Score||Course Placement|
|SAT math > 700||
Math 113 or lower
|SAT math > 570||Math 100 or 101|
Students with SAT math of <700 and wishing to take MATH 108 or MATH 111 will need to take the on-line math placement exam.
Note: First-year students have an opportunity to take the online math placement exam if they wish to attempt to improve their initial placement. Thus, it is possible for the placement code to change to a higher level upon completion of the math placement exam.
MATH 101: May take MATH 101 Finite Mathematics or any lower-numbered math course IMPORTANT: MATH 101 is not a pre-requisite or preparation course for any version of calculus (Math 108, 111 or 113).
MATH 108: May take MATH 108 Calculus With Review I or any lower-numbered math course
MATH 111: May take MATH 111 Calculus for Business and Social Science or any lowernumbered math course except MATH 109
MATH 113: May take MATH 113 Calculus I or any lower-numbered math course except MATH 109
MATH 099 or none: May not enroll in any St. Thomas math course for credit.*
No Test: Has not taken the St. Thomas online math placement test. May not take any St. Thomas math course until placement test has been taken. (It is possible that the student has taken the placement test after the placement data was initially entered; check with student.) Exception to this policy: if the student has AP credit in calculus, he or she may proceed to the next level of calculus.
Online math placement test information is available through the Mathematics Resource Center (MaRC).
Students who believe that placement should be higher than the score indicates, or who wish to prepare for a higher level of mathematics than they are currently able to take, should consult with the MaRC Director. The student may not register for a higher level than the placement test results. See the UST Undergraduate Catalogto determine the appropriate math course(s) required for specific majors.
*If a student‘s placement is ―099 or none, the student needs further preparation before enrolling in any St. Thomas math course for credit. One option is to take non-credit math review courses Math 005 and/or 006. Another option is to work individually with the MaRC and then retake the placement test. Students should consult early with the MaRC Director about options.
If a student had little or no foreign language study in high school, he or she may start in the first level of any language at UST.
If a student has completed the UST foreign language placement test, he/she will be placed into a specific language course at UST (e.g. SPAN 112, FREN 212). The student may not enroll for a higher or lower level of the language without the permission of the Modern & Classical Languages Department. The student may, however, start in level 111 of some other language not previously studied. (Note: the student would in that case be required to complete level 211 in the new language in order to fulfill the language requirement.)
If a student places into level 212 or 300 of a language, he/she has the option to either register for the appropriate course (212 or 300 are required if the student plans to major or minor in the language) or complete the in-person language verification exam in the Modern & Classical Language department. If the student does not plan to register for any language courses at UST, the core Language & Culture requirement will be fulfilled for the student only after he/she has completed the in-person verification exam. This exam can be scheduled by contacting the Modern & Classical Languages department (651-962-5150)
Students whose first language is not English should call the Modern and Classical Languages department at 962-5150 to discuss having this requirement waived.
A placement exam is required prior to enrollment in CHEM 111. If you have a Math placement of at least Math 108, contact the Chemistry department to get access/set up for the placement exam.
A student on probation cannot afford to do poorly. Every student who is placed on probation receives an email notice stating the terms of probation, and a recommendation that the student meet with a counselor in Academic Counseling and Support. Since not all students on probation do meet with a counselor, the following suggestions may help in advising a student on probation. They may also prove useful in advising a student who is experiencing difficulties but is not yet on probation. Of course, advisors should always feel free to refer students having difficulties to Academic Counseling and Support for additional aid.
(1) If at all possible, determine why the student has done poorly in the past; this is one of the best ways of helping the student to avoid repeating the problem. Is the student overworked? Underprepared? Bored? Pursuing an unsuitable major? Experiencing chronic or recurring health or personal difficulties? A combination of the above? All of these factors can be managed, if they are identified and faced; and the earlier in the semester they are faced the better the chances are that they can be handled in a satisfactory way.
(2) Overwork is one of the most frequent causes of poor performance — and one of the easiest problems to remedy. If a student has a pattern of withdrawing late from one course each semester (or of getting a poor grade in just one or two courses), this is a likely problem. Ask the student about commitments outside of school — some students work 20 or more hours per week and expect themselves to perform well in a full load of courses. They may have friends who are handling a similar schedule, and believe that they ought to be able to do so as well. The truth, of course, is that some students can handle such a schedule while others cannot. Sometimes a student also has health, personal, or family concerns and does not realize that these concerns also are a drain on both time and energy. Some of these students simply need assurance that it‘s ok to take fewer courses (and the advice that it is probably better in the long run not only in terms of GPA, but also for what they are getting from their courses). If the student is resistant to the suggestion that he or she take fewer courses, find out why. Some students are worried about parental reactions (and find that parents are more understanding than they had expected); some are worried about financial aid restrictions (these should be encouraged to go to the financial aid office and find out what the consequences actually would be of taking a lighter load). Other students say that they want to finish their degrees as quickly as possible; again, find out why, and encourage the student to think about whether or not that really makes the best sense. Sometimes (in the case of the student who ends up having to withdraw from or repeat courses anyway), slower really is faster. If this is the case, then the student will save money by signing up for fewer courses at the initial registration, and will be able to devote more attention from the start to the courses he or she does take.
(3) If a student is unhappy in a major but believes that it is the only possible choice, urge the student to explore other options. A referral to career, psychological, and/or academic counseling may be appropriate. The student might consider taking a semester off to take courses in other areas just as a breather. Note: sometimes this may result in the student being out of sequence and needing an extra year to complete the major (this is most likely in the sciences and languages), so the advantages and disadvantages must be weighed.
(4) The fastest way to raise the GPA is to retake a course in which an F was earned. The next fastest way is to retake a D. The reason for this is that not only is the new grade added into the GPA; the old grade is dropped out. (The original grade does, however, remain on the student‘s transcript, even though it is not included in the GPA.) Furthermore, since the student has already had some exposure to the course material, chances for success are somewhat greater.
However, a student may choose not to repeat a course in which a D was earned if the student does not need mastery of the course material as a basis for later work. A student who has an F in an elective or core curriculum course may choose to substitute a different elective or core course (e.g., one might choose to take SOC 100, Introduction to Sociology, instead of retaking PSY 111, General Psychology, for the Social Analysis requirement), but then the original F grade will still be included in the GPA.
While a few first-year students know exactly what they plan to major in the day they step foot on campus, the majority are undecided and need time to explore their many options. As is the case when making any purposeful decision, the process for selecting a major that is a good fit for a student should begin early as it will require time and will involve several steps. An advisor can be instrumental in helping lead a student through these basic steps toward discerning a major field choice that is best suited to that individual.
Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind when advising an exploring student:
Each year, many students elect to explore educational opportunities which take them away from their home campus to other colleges and universities abroad. One of the most important aspects of helping these students make a study abroad experience possible is to help them plan ahead. For you as an advisor, knowing whether or not a student is considering study abroad in the future will impact the types of courses you should be discussing with the student to take prior to leaving. For instance, many programs will require a minimum level of language proficiency. Others may have limited offerings for the types of courses available.
Some questions to explore with a student who has expressed an interest in studying abroad:
Immigration regulations make it particularly important that international students maintain a certain level of credit enrollment.
Undergraduate international students must get approval from the Office of International Student Services before dropping below 12 credits. If they drop below 12 credits without approval, they will lose their immigration status (i.e. become illegal based on immigration regulations).
Students can continue to be approved for a reduced course load for academic difficulties including:
Questions related to enrollment requirements for international students should be referred to the Office of International Student Services, email@example.com or 2-6650.