Key Issues in Advising Special Populations
Beyond the First Year
- Develop long‐term, flexible academic plan.
- Encourage student leadership through a variety of means. (Honors classes, leadership opportunities, internships, research projects, academic organizations) A variety of opportunitites to get involved are found at the Leadership Center,and Residence Life.
- Create connection between curriculum and career options.
- Make known obstacles for program completion and career placement. (GPA or assessment measures, post baccalaureate training)
- Prepare for employment (resume, references, interviews)
- Prepare student to meet all graduation requirements and deadlines.
Transfer students are a population often lost in the cracks of college life. Because this is viewed as a mature student who knows the ropes of college life, advisors may be quick to dismiss subtle signs of distress. Transfer students may be reluctant to reach out to advisors for assistance as they feel they should be able to manage college life. In reality, most transfer students have come from a smaller campus and are used to the style of services offered at their previous institution. These students may feel like "a fish out of water" and become quickly discouraged. The first meeting is crucial.
- Need quick placement into an "academic home."
- Want to experience a warm welcome from advisor.
- Have as great of a need for information on academic policies and general campus information as new students.
- Want to be treated as a mature student while still receiving the information deemed pertinent to a new student.
- Will have a need for substantial contact during admit term.
- Will have a need to review transfer hours.
- May have misinformation or preconceived notion regarding transfer hours.
- May need to be briefed about transfer policies (i.e. GPA, transfer credit evaluations).
- In a positive approach, discuss the differences in two‐year and four‐year institutions.
- Initiate interaction with other students in similar major.
- Create a working knowledge of general "transfer pitfalls" in their department.
An adult student is a student generally over the age of 25. However, students as young as 22 who have life circumstances dissimilar to that of a traditional‐age college student are often categorized as adult learners. (i.e. children, full‐time employment, spouse, dependents etc…)
Advising concerns are often unique. Advisors can assist adult students in overcoming barriers to successful completion of a degree. It is sometimes assumed that adult students have a much clearer educational goal than the traditional‐age student. While this is sometimes true, it is not always the case.
Sometimes adult students opt to return to college for lack of options in their personal life. One of the biggest factors in advising adult students is dealing with multiple roles as well as with time constraints.
Adult students may ask:
- Can I complete my entire degree in a timely fashion?
- Can I take all my classes before 2 pm?
- Will all the classes I need be offered in the evening
- Are my classes offered online?
May want to know but may not ask:
- Will I be the oldest person in my class?
- Will I be older than the faculty?
- Will I feel out of place making friends in class?
- Will I be employable when I complete my degree?
Adult students may:
- May need to brush up on essential study skills
- May have since of urgency to finish degree and have less patience with general requirements
- May be experiencing opposition from family and friends
- More likely to be consumer‐oriented as they are often paying the bill.
- May bring "baggage" from past experience in an educational setting
- May set high standards and benchmark progress from peers in classroom and responses from faculty
Advisor May Note
- Old placement scores may not adequately reflect current skill level
- Strengths and experiences that older students bring to campus
- Reason student is returning to college
Students with Disabilities
Advisors from time to time may advise a student with a disability – physical, psychiatric or learning disability. Advisors may or may not be aware of a student’s disability. Stigmas often attached to disabilities may hinder a student’s desire to disclose such information. However, advisors are appropriate sources for a student to turn for information. Lack of information or wrong information can account for some of the mishaps students with disabilities face in advising situations.
Advisees may find that secondary and postsecondary settings are quite different. The unstructured environment of higher education offers less stability to students who depend upon special services. While advisors may be used to offering students a new level of freedom, students with disabilities may require more hand holding. Advisors should not assume the student is registered with ASU Disability Services. Some students are unaware of this department and others may be reluctant to seek it out.
Advisors should also be aware that each student with a disability is unique. Advisors should not shy aware from inquiring about a student’s academic needs while in college. Students may need to take a reduced course load, a balance between the level of difficulty among classes, or a combination of class length and frequencies. Advisors should be aware of the services available to students. ASU Disability Services offers students with disabilities many services depending upon the students’ needs. For a complete review of the services offered, visit the Disability Services website.
Some services include but are not limited to:
- Note takers
- Escort Services
- Classroom advocacy
- Priority Registration
- Assessment of needs
- Testing Accommodations
- Permission to tape record lectures
- Course Substitutions
While all new students may feel a degree of isolation and homesickness, international students can experience this twofold. Language, food, social behavior, and communication are all new, different and perhaps strange to international students.
International students are often surprised by the degree of informality in the American classroom. In many of their cultures, faculty members are considered to be "on a pedestal" and very unapproachable. As a result, international students are uncomfortable speaking in class, particularly when they might appear to be questioning the teacher’s knowledge or authority. Their initial unfamiliarity with the US university culture and with the English language often makes them reluctant to participate in any classroom discussion.
Advisors can assist international students by reassuring them that it is acceptable to ask questions and express opinions in the classroom. They might remind advisees that, in some courses, class participation is expected and will make up a certain percentage of the final grade. Also, advisors can encourage international students to take advantage of faculty office hours to
ask for help or clarification on points they might have missed in class.
Advisors need to be aware that international students who are in the US on a student visa are required by law to be enrolled in at least twelve credit hours for the duration of each semester. Summer enrollment is optional. International students do not have the luxury of dropping below twelve hours because they are failing one or more classes. They must maintain full‐time enrollment in order to remain in legal status. However, there are exceptions to this immigration regulation during a student’s first enrollment period or in the event of a serious medical problem. International students may not enroll in correspondence courses. They may only take one online course per twelve hour enrollment.
Underprepared students (students whose assessment scores or high school GPA are low) may require intrusive advising from the start. Advisors are wise to establish a quick rapport and initiate frequent visits thereafter. Underprepared students may become discouraged early on and are at risk to leave school. Study skills are essential.
- Suggest that a student take her basic coursework first as she develops her study techniques.
- Structure a schedule that includes some coursework that plays to a student’s strengths.
- Inform student of academic support services and resources.
- Connect a student to campus outside classroom involvement.
- Encourage student to meet the faculty of each class.
- Encourage student to return at first sign of academic distress.
- Pair with a peer mentor if available through department.
- Assist the student with the development of basic study skills or refer to a department that can assist.
- Send an email, place a phone call or send a note to establish a trusting relationship with advisee, especially during her first three semesters on campus.
- Do not assume the student is not capable of college work.
Students in Academic Distress
Students on academic probation or suspension are the most in need of, yet least likely to seek out advising. Advisors find that these students seldom follow through on the advice received. Often students turn to advisors to calculate GPAs, determine which classes should be repeated and determine what classes to take. Advising in these situations can be somewhat tricky. These students are in need of careful advising.
Advisors may want to:
- Explore with the student the cause for poor academic performance. (lack of study skills, lack of availability, lack of commitment)
- Continue to advise on regular intervals throughout the semester.
- Alert student to programs, services and resources that are available to assist him.
- Use an advising contract.
The undecided student brings a unique set of circumstances to the advising forum. There are a number of reasons why students may arrive on campus yet to determine a major. Understanding these reasons can be the key to guiding students down their own career path. Undecided advisees flourish best in a caring climate where they are comfortable in identifying problems associated with selecting a major. Advisors are encouraged to be gentle yet firm as they guide a student in a career direction. Strongly encourage undecided students to attend Select‐a‐Major Fair held in the Fall semester. For more information, contact Undergraduate Studies.
Determine why the student is undecided.
- Lack of Independence in decision‐making
- Lack of knowledge of the decision‐making process
- Lack of information
- Multiplicity of interests
- Perceived or actual lack of ability
- Lack of interest
- Lack of knowledge regarding the connection between major(s) and occupational choice
Possible questions (self‐exploration)
- As far back as you can remember, what general careers have you thought of?
- What subjects did you enjoy in high school? Why?
- Did you participate in any extracurricular activities?
- Do you consider your strengths to lie in math/science, English, business etc..?
- What do you see as your limitations?
- Why are you in college?
- What do you do in your spare time?
- What does a college degree mean to you?
- What type of lifestyle do you envision?
- If you could have the ideal job right now without attending college what would it be?
Possible questions (decision making)
- Are you comfortable making decisions?
- How do you generally go about making a decision?
- Do you make decisions by yourself or do you consult family or friends?
- Can you make a decision without consulting others?
Possible questions (academic information)
- What academic areas are you considering?
- What are the similarities/differences in the academic areas you are considering?
- What do you know about these occupations?
- What type of employment do you see these majors leading to?
- How do your abilities and skills fit into these choices?
Help Student To Organize A Plan
- Refer to Counseling Center for career assessments.
- Have students explore the general overview of several majors at ASU including the requirements.
- Have student create a list of general questions to ask faculty, students or career center.
- Encourage student to take introduction classes within majors. (e.g. Introduction to Social Work).
- Review general education class work and see where a student’s strength lies.
- Have the student review the Sunday classifieds and circle jobs of interest.
- Student can review the skills and requirements needed for these jobs.
- Student can conduct informational interviews with employers in one of their occupations of interest.
- Encourage students to explore career research on the Internet.
Help Student To Integrate Information Collected
This is the step that most students find difficult. Effective advising is crucial. It is important to assess a student’s level of maturity in the decision making process. Some students may need guidance in order to pick realistic options. Others may lag
behind as they fear there is only one right choice.
To help students accomplish these steps in a timely fashion, help them to make an action plan.
High Ability Students
It is sometimes assumed that high ability students have already chosen a major and are well prepared for college. In fact, these students often struggle to select a degree because of their wide range of interests and abilities. These students may not have successfully developed study skills as they have not had a need yet. High ability students may be sensitive
to comments about academic ability.
High ability students as well as all students at ASU that show an interest may be encouraged to expand their collegiate experience beyond the classroom. ASU offers several opportunities for students to develop leadership skills.
- The Leadership Center (#2055) houses SGA and SAB, Pack Leaders, and Voluntter A-State
- Honors Program (#2308) Honors classes Residence Life (#2042) Residence Assistant positions
- Academic Departments Academic Organizations and clubs
- Disability Services (#3964) Note takers and other volunteer positions available.