Advising & Supporting

Many areas within student affairs use language like “academic advisor” or “student support services” to describe their roles, which illustrates the centrality of advising and supporting to the profession. In order to remain both sensitive and responsive to students’ needs, student affairs professionals must depend on their ability to advise and support student growth and reflection effectively, since “students who worked with advisors who encouraged reflection in goal setting…were more likely to develop abilities and perspectives associated with self-authorship” (Evans, Forney, Guido, Patton & Renn, 2010, p. 190). Self-authorship is an essential outcome of the college experience and it ultimately allows the student to transition into the post-graduation world better equipped to navigate challenges. It is also a particularly relevant concept for students’ career development, as evidenced by its representation in the CAS Standards for Career Services. The CAS Standards suggest that students take more ownership of their career development and that counselors should provide a broad range of career-related activities to assist with this (Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS), 2012). This idea promotes advising and supporting as the core vehicles for engaging in these activities with students and promoting self-authorship. 

In order to ensure that my advising and supporting skills are sufficient to provide comprehensive career development services, I continuously aim to strengthen my achievement of these foundational outcomes: recognize the strengths and limitations of one’s own worldview on communication with others, establishing rapport with students, groups, colleagues and others that acknowledges differences in lived experiences, exhibiting culturally inclusive active listening skills, seek opportunities to expand one’s own knowledge and skills in helping student with specific concerns as well as interfacing with specific populations within the college student environment and the intermediate outcomes of: perceive and analyze unspoken dynamics in a group setting, facilitate group decision-making, goal-setting, and process and assess the developmental needs of students and the organizational needs of student groups, demonstrate culturally-inclusive advising, supporting, coaching, and counseling strategies (ACPA & NASPA, 2015).

Reframing Content for Different Learning Styles

In general, visual learners don't absorb as much from text-heavy slides. Incorporating some visual components (even silly ones) can go a long way to making the information more accessible. Visual components encourage learning as well as making the experience more interesting for a presenter.

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Acknowledging Differences

In Cooperative Education at Bristol Community College, I used a variety of advising skills. Since the office was housed in Academic Affairs, I also used slightly different language in this role. I did so in recognition of Quaye’s assertion that when someone speaks, other people make decisions about the truth of their claim (2011, pp. 283). By using the language of academic affairs, I balanced the somewhat different priorities between the academic affairs and student affairs divisions by establishing trust. When both divisions felt that I was speaking their language, they trusted me more and my claims were met with better outcomes for students.


Balance was particularly important for me in other ways, too. I had to recognize students' unique educational challenges by using active listening while also facilitating reflection about academic and career goals. I wanted them to secure an internship, but it was also important to me to educate them about the skills they would need in their future careers. This role challenged me to improve my active listening and observation skills, to identify student needs proactively, and to hold myself accountable for my preconceived notions about students’ identities. One influential experience that supported my professional development was a workshop about obtaining employment with a criminal record. Many students attend the college for a fresh start after facing legal issues, so by learning about the specific strategies that I could use to support them, I developed a more comprehensive set of advising skills. Specifically, I incorporated intrusive advising (Herget, 2017) to demonstrate care for students as they faced these particularly challenging situations.

Support for Specific Concerns

Once I assumed my position in Career Services the following semester, I developed more specific expertise in career counseling for students in highly specialized industries. I never knew exactly what to expect, but the questions I answered had one thing in common: they nearly always required a more informed answer than “Yes, you can include ‘x’ on your resume.” In other words, I often had to elevate my advising beyond the basics I had focused on at the community college level to adjust for the increased social capital of the students. The predominantly white student population, selective admissions criteria, and high tuition at this private institution made social capital and privilege a regular part of my work. Whenever I sensed a disparity from this norm in an appointment, I made sure to observe more closely and utilize increasingly inclusive language. If needed, I also employed alternate advising strategies. I focused on empowering the students to be proud of their work, to help them identify the characteristics, experiences, and skills that they could offer to an employer, and to learn how to communicate those skills on their resume. Over time, I developed resources to help students generate ideas about how to do so..


I also spoke with students about the importance of completing an internship, since internships can play a significant role in students’ success after graduation. However, many of the highly specialized industries represented at the institution did not offer paid internships. This posed a challenge to students who were not financially able to do an internship and created anxiety for those students, who were nervous that they would fall behind their peers. Higher education and career services are grappling with this issue across the country, so I examined the issue in my final practicum paper (attached). I found that professional associations and career development trends supported my personal analysis. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that although participation in unpaid internships generally increased GPA, they actually had a negative correlation with student salaries and employment satisfaction post graduation (Crain & National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2016). By remaining informed about this research, I am better able to advise students about the associated costs and benefits of completing an unpaid internship. 

Group Facilitation

Throughout my first year in the HESA program, I became increasingly aware that I would eventually need to present in front of audiences if I wanted to be successful in the field. After extensive repetition, I noticed that I developed an ability to shift my style to match the personality and needs of the groups I presented to. I learned how to tailor a presentation to different sized groups at a moment’s notice, how to engage different types of audiences in participation, and how to identify what specific information was most relevant and interesting for different groups. Over several months, I removed a substantial amount of text from the presentations. I realized that the information I shared was more impactful when I shared it out loud because the presentation slides were not there to distract students. Ultimately, this contributed more to students’ learning, but it also improved my skills and confidence in working with student groups. The chart to the right identifies some of my frequently used approaches to providing intentional supports to students through resource improvement. 


ACPA & NASPA. (2015). Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators. Washington, D.C.: Authors.

Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education. (2012). Career Services. In Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (Ed.), CAS professional standards for higher education (8th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Crain, A. & National Association for Colleges and Employers (NACE). (2016). Understanding The Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development And Employment Outcomes. Bethlehem, PA: Authors.

Evans, N.J., Forney, D.S., Guido, F.M., Patton, L.D., & Renn, K. A. (2010). Student  Development In College: Theory, Research and Practice. 2 Ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 

Herget, A. (2017). Intrusive academic advising: A proactive approach to student success. HigherEdJobs. Retrieved from:

Quaye, S.J. (2011). Girl or Woman? Dorm or Residence Hall? What’s the Big Deal About Language?: The Power of Language. In P.M Magolda & M.B. Baxter Magolda (Eds.), Contested Issues in Student Affairs: Diverse Perspectives and Respectful Dialogue (pp. 280-289). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.

Last Updated: May 2018

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