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How to Make Advising Sessions More Meaningful and Helpful for Students

SSC-Campus Profile: Krystal Dains, BAS Academic Program Coordinator
By Janet Ha Poirot

Krystal Dains

One challenge facing academic advisors is how to provide a high quality advising experience within a limited amount of time.  Good academic advisors intuitively understand that students have a unique viewpoint and a set of life experiences that will their academic decisions.  This poses as a challenge for advisors since they can never propose the same solution for every student but must listen, evaluate and analyze each individual situation.  In meetings with students, advisors often find they have a short span of time where they need to determine the best conversational approach while disseminating all the relevant information the student needs.  And with students coming in and out of their offices, advisors need to prepare ahead of time for each meeting.  With a hectic schedule and large student populations, academic advisors can feel strained under the pressure of how to best serve their students while also completing their daily tasks.

This is where SSC-Campus can be very helpful because it allows the advisor to focus on a critical component of successful advising sessions, relationship building.  Krystal Dains, BAS Academic Program Coordinator and Academic Advisor, has been successfully using the SSC-Campus software to help her build better relationships with her students.  She finds the notes section to be her favorite feature since it reminds her of her last conversation with them.  She can quickly glance down to her notes in the software and ask some of her students, “Last time you were here, you were looking for a new job.  How did the job search go?” or “I know you were struggling with balancing work with your classes last semester.  How are things now?”  During advising sessions, she has observed students visibly relax.  They have even expressed appreciation that she has remembered important information about them.  Krystal has also used SSC-Campus to create quick reports where she can see all of her students who are doing well and those who aren’t.  She regularly pulls up a list of students with a GPA of 3.5 and above and using the campaign feature, she quickly sends them a congratulatory email.  Some have written back expressing their gratitude saying how nice it was getting a note from their advisor.  In her emails to students who have low GPAs, she likes to add a personal touch from the notes section in SSC-Campus.  She’ll mention something from their last conversation such as, “Last time I saw you, you mentioned you were going on vacation with your family.  How did it go?  I noticed your grades for this semester and was wondering if we could talk about that.  Let’s see what I can do to help you out.”  Krystal says showing a student she remembers this type of information makes the following advising session feel more human and less robotic.

When she meets with students, she finds the Overview screen to be immensely helpful because it tells her immediately where her students stand, how many courses they’ve repeated, how many they have failed or have come close to failing and their overall GPA.  In the past, she had to search through students’ transcript to find this information.  “Before I had to pull up each transcript.  It was a slower more painstaking process to dig through that much data.  When you have a lot paperwork to sort through, it was easy to miss important information especially if you had a student who took a lot of classes.  I have some students who have 130 credits.  That’s a lot of courses to review.”  Now, she has all of that information at her fingertips.  This frees up her time to direct the conversation in a more productive manner.  After she has engaged the student in a discussion regarding his or her goals and concerns, she is able to launch into an academic discussion with, “I see that you repeated this course three times, let’s talk about.  How are you doing in that class this semester?”  Students often appreciate when their advisor understands their situation right away and are not sifting through paperwork to find the relevant information.

Krystal enjoys her work as an academic advisor.  Before she became an advisor, she worked in residence life.  While she enjoyed her work in residence life, she saw very little of students’ academic goals.  Her work often circled around their personal struggles and their homesickness.  But as an academic advisor, she gets to see her students’ academic growth and achievement.  She loves witnessing the growing excitement of her students as they approach graduation, the start of a new chapter in their lives.  She feels proud of the connection she has with her students, a relationship built over time through trust and communication.  Academic advisors like Krystal understand how a meaningful advisor-advisee relationship is essential to student success in college.

For more information on Student Success Collaborative-Campus training and other SSC resources please visit – https://advising.gmu.edu/ssc/