tholsey

Student Affairs Advocate

What academic advising means to me

I am a first generation college graduate and more importantly college transformed my way of thinking, and helped me to develop skills I didn’t know I had. When I got to college I was a bit overwhelmed and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  My initial goal was to make friends and try to fit in, and I think I did just that. I pledged a predominantly black fraternity and gained friendships that I never knew I could have. I come from a small town in East Texas, and was raised by a single mother, a mother who worked night shift all of my teenage and young adult years, therefore, I wasn’t really focused on my future or setting goals in life. I was fortunate enough to meet people who would later become my mentors and they were the ones who encouraged me to get an education. After completing 35 hours at a community college I quickly determined that College was for me, and I enjoyed being on a college campus, making friends, and even sitting in a college classroom.

So when I got to a major University I was both excited and a bit overwhelmed, but quickly began to fit in and get adjusted. I can credit some of the adjustments to my fraternity and the rest to my mentors and mother, who all wanted me to graduate and get a degree. My college career began to take a turn when I started putting my fraternity in head of the classroom as opposed to taking care of my academic responsibilities. I was then placed on academic suspension with a 1.6 GPA, and I will never forget the fact that I had the spring semester and two summer sessions to pull my GPA up or I would no longer be able to receive financial aid, and would be suspended from my University for a longer period of time. My mother spent her hard earned money to pay for two classes for the spring semester, and two classes for each summer session, and I pulled my GPA up to a 2.1 in that time frame. I cam back to school with a new attitude and a new outlook at College and the opportunity I had in front of me. I went on to graduate a year later with a 2.5 GPA.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the decisions I made in College, and the fact that I should have paid more attention to advisors, professors, and those that cared about me the most. As an Academic Advisor I would quickly be able to identify those students who are headed in the same path as me, as well as those students who need a firm talking to, or motivation and encouragement. I got wrapped up in student life and lost interest in the classroom, and I would stop at nothing to ensure that a student does not take their education for granted. I strongly believe there is a fine line between enjoying college, and putting forward a valiant effort in the classroom.  No matter who or how many students are on my case load, I would make sure that each of them stayed in college and were productive in the classroom.

After finishing my Bachelors degree, I knew I had to work on my Masters…..not just because I needed the extra education to work at a College, but because the 2.5 GPA during my undergrad years left a bitter taste in my mouth, therefore, I was on a mission. I returned to school in 2009 to pursue a degree in Health Administration at the Univ. of Phoenix online and from the first day of class I was determined to excel, and I did. I finished my masters degree with a 3.71 GPA….and soon I will be ready to prove to myself that I can excel as a doctoral student.

I am so serious about education, simply because I know how hard life can be when you don’t have it, or when you choose the wrong major. As an Academic Advisor it would be my goal to push students, to help them realize their potential, and to make sure they understand the opportunities available to them if they choose certain majors.  I strongly believe in the purpose and benefits of Student Affairs, however, it is important that students do not get caught up in school activities and organizations so much that they give up in the classroom. Which in my opinion is the reason why Advisors have to be able to teach students effective time management skills. Many college students love to procrastinate but we have to help them realize that procrastinating is not the best method, especially if they have a busy life outside of the classroom.

I also possess excellent interpersonal and communication skills. I will find a way to relate to students, no matter what race, culture, or background…..I will always find ways to build rapport with students. Students in my opinion are customers and it is my job to provide great customer satisfaction, with that being said, it is my responsibility to know my students and to be aware of their academic capabilities. Student retention is and should be one of the most important goals of any Academic Advisor, and I believe one way to retain students is to be honest with them and help them to choose the right major.

I am aware of many of the duties and responsibilities of Academic Advisors, and I feel confident that I can meet and exceed each one, however, I think it is important to point out that I am completely student focused, and believe in making an investment into the student’s life. Therefore,  I would be extremely effective at:

Maintaining an open door policy, as I believe that all students are important and advisors need to be available to students at all times. As an Advisor I would also find the time to walk around campus and talk with many of my students, whether they are eating lunch, in the library, participating in student activities, or working on campus. I would make sure that I was approachable and easily accessible at all times.

Maintaining professional relationships with professors and faculty, as I believe it is important to stay current on trends, events, and regulations within each career and academic major. It is also important to maintain these relationships so that I am aware of which students are struggling and/or failing. Being active in the community is also important, building relationships with professionals in various fields and industries can help me to stay up to date on current information as well, so that I can better advise my students.

Being aware of the financial aid process, I think it is extremely important as an advisor to understand the financial aid process. This includes making sure that students do not take classes that are not needed toward their major, in many situations, specifically with nursing majors, financial aid will only pay for a limited amount of classes, therefore, students will not always have the luxury of re-taking classes, changing their majors, or taking classes they don’t need. The 150% rule is an example of the need to make sure students are registered for required classes and not extra classes. On top of this, Advisors at community colleges should prompt students to choose the University or College they would like to transfer to, so that students can take classes that will transfer.

Organizing, I truly believe that an Academic Advisor must be a good organizer. The ability to keep a clean space, accurate and up to date files, and having an orderly system is important when maintaining a case load. Advisors will also have to know their way around the computer, which includes data entry and being knowledgeable of certain software, that may vary depending on the school. So it is imperative to practice effective time management skills so that advisors can balance work in the office, time for students, performing other duties that the supervisor may assign, and making time to be visible on campus.

Maintaining knowledge of Student Activities on Campus, My goal as an Academic Advisor would be to maintain professional relationships with Student Affairs staff, which will keep me informed on current and future activities on campus. Student Activities play a very important role in retaining students, which is another reason why Advisors have to build rapport with their students, so that they can recommend the right activities and/or organizations that students should be apart of.

Helping students to build good study habits, I would be extremely effective at helping students find tutors, joining study groups, and developing good study habits. I would never assume that a student is aware of all of the resources on campuses, nor would I assume that students know how to practice good study habits. Therefore, it would be my responsibility to make sure that they are taking notes, active in class, and meeting with their professors if need be. I think it is also important to motivate students to choose friends who care about their own grades, practice good study habits, and set goals,  because often times no one can push a student better than their peers.

Seek opportunities to grow professionally, by identifying appropriate workshops, classes, literature, research publications, individuals and groups, both inside and outside the institution, which can keep my interest high, hone advising skills, and advance expertise within academic advising. I strongly believe that an Academic Advisor should constantly seek knowledge and strive to be better every semester. A few ways I can do this is to willingly and actively participate in advisor training programs, both initially and in-service, share advising skills and learn from colleagues who also are actively involved with advising,  and continually attempt to improve both the style and substance of my advising role.

In conclusion, the academic advisor position would be a perfect fit for me, simply  because it would not be a job but a career. I love advising students and helping them to realize their purpose and reach their fullest potential. The advisor’s role is a very important role that contributes to the success of the school, the student, and the community.  The advisor must have a strong passion for the position and realize that his/her job is very serious and life changing. In my opinion this includes a person that has made mistakes academically and rebounded from them, and since I have rebounded from my mistakes, I would be relentless in making sure that those that I come in contact with do not choose the same path as me. My experiences have sparked an insatiable desire to help others succeed and pursue their passions, and I think a strong desire to help others succeed is an attribute that all Advisors should have.

 

 

 

 

 

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