The First Critical Outreach Point in Intrusive/Proactive Advising

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Gain strategies to engage and direct at-risk students on a path to success.

The “intrusive,” or proactive, advising model helps advisors anticipate students’ needs and connect students to appropriate resources and support early in their academic careers. While intrusive advising can prove to be a complex and involved process, there are three major outreach points to keep in mind:

  • Beginning-of-term
  • Mid-term
  • End-of-term

As Joe Murray, director of university advising services at Florida Atlantic University, shares there are several tactics you can use at each of these points that have shown effective results for many institutions.

Here are the tactics that will prove useful for beginning-of-term advising.

How to Help before Classes Even Begin

Many institutions now offer summer bridge programs for students who need extra help before fully matriculating, but what about students who need just a bit of college-prep work? What about first-generation students?

Murray suggested some pre-term options for these students:

Pre-Term Classes: When awarding financial aid, the federal government does not care exactly when your fall semester begins; it has simply designated August 1st as the beginning of fall term. So one creative way to help students who need a small amount of developmental education to become college-ready is to offer short pre-term sessions of developmental writing, math, computer skills, and study skills. When taught from August 1st through the beginning of the semester, these courses can be defined as being part of the fall semester.

Online Advising and Resource System: A registration system that allows students to register for courses before arriving on campus is a good way to allow first-year students to attend orientation without the concern of only being able to register for those courses that are left once orientation ends.

Advising Syllabus: First-generation students may not know what a syllabus is used for, or that they should pay attention to it to guide their academic coursework. Partner with faculty to communicate expectations to students. Also, create an “advising syllabus” to guide students in making the most of their advising experience.

Scheduling Hold: This is one of the main tools used to make sure students are taking advantage of advising services. The challenge is to get students to come into the advising office in a timely manner. Students often wait until the week that scheduling opens; this creates a long line at the advising office and leads to quick scheduling and can lead to rushed, less effective advising.

While holds are important, but you must also think beyond just holds. You must think about how to engage students before crunch time and how to make the scheduling hold most effective when you do use it.

Cold Calls and Emails: Which Students Should You Contact?

When making cold calls and emails to at-risk groups, be sure to target students using specific criteria. You want to be sure you reach the groups that you intend to reach. The following are some of the data you may want to look at to determine which students need intrusive advising:

  • Prerequisite checks
  • Class schedule to major comparison
  • Class load to GPA comparison
  • Competitive major/GPA reality check

“Killer combinations” are a major red flag to look for. You probably know which combinations of classes may set a student up to be less likely to succeed (for example, biology, chemistry, and calculus all taken together in one term). Run reports to identify which students are taking these “killer combinations.” Check their GPAs, and determine if these students are handling the load effectively; if not, intervene.

This is just the beginning of a well-formed intrusive advising strategy. To be truly effective, and to ensure success for your students, you must advise students throughout their academic careers. As Murray notes, “It’s not enough to just have students be retained and persist if they’re not making satisfactory progress toward graduation.”