Working with First Year Students is both rewarding and frustrating. Everything is new and unknown. Helping students to establish a responsible relationship with an adult mentor is important for student success. Advising is part customer service, part teacher, and part motivator. At Cornell we use developmental advising with all advisees. If you have a student who struggles academically, you will want to switch to more "intrusive" advising.
Advisor expectations and guidelines
- The Coordinator of Academic Support and Advising will notify you when your advising files are ready (usually in early August). Review new advisee materials before meeting with advisees during New Student Orientation (NSO). This includes the Advising Survey which are uploaded to a secure folder on one of the college servers. There should also be an essay from the student, written over the summer, made available to you through the Office of Student Life.
- Check that all Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate/CLEP and transfer work has been evaluated by the Registrar. Help student remember to not enroll in any course for which they have already been given credit or the credit will be erased.
- Look for the student's foreign language placement results. It may be emailed to you, placed in file, or on their transcript online as credit.
- Meet with new advisees during NSO to select courses for Blocks Two through Four.
- First-year students need to select a ‘W” course sometime during the first six blocks of their first year. The earlier the better, especially if the student was not a strong student in high school or shows hesitancy around writing.
- Use the departmental advice page to access major/minor requirements and recommended course sequences for any major the student may be considering. You may also want to use the Major Checklists on the Registrar's page.
- If the student wants to participate in music lessons, ensembles or adjunct course, the student registers during the first week of classes directly with the faculty member in charge of the lesson or classes. You can direct the student to the office in Armstrong Hall.
- Actively advise student without being discouraging. If a student is coming in with moderate GPA and wants to do pre-med, you might suggest registering for Bio 142 and Che 121 and see how they go before trying the whole series of fundamental science courses. Or, alternatively, you may register them for all four core classes but remind them that if they get C's in first couple of courses, they may want to discuss options with you before taking the remaining two.
- Arrange to meet with each new advisee during Blocks One and Two to get acquainted and review each other’s responsibilities in the advising relationship. Convey an interest in them as an individual, as well as their academic success at Cornell.
- Introduce/reinforce the importance of thoughtful, respectful and collaborative relationships with faculty and staff. Explain fundamentals such as email etiquette and regular check-ins.
- Help first year advisees plan their academic program for terms five through eight. Assist them in creating a balanced liberal arts plan for the year. Encourage independence, responsibility and long-range planning. Suggest a variety of courses, but also listen to their self-assessment about strengths, weaknesses, and interests--don't try to fit a square peg into a round hole.
- Create an environment and present a demeanor to the student so that they are not intimidated, but instead feel comfortable approaching you with questions or concerns throughout the year and will believe that you are available to them and interested in their well-being. Students will often talk through their challenges and come up with their own conclusions if you listen and ask good questions. Don't assume the reason they came to your office is just what they say initially. "How do I withdraw from Cornell?" might really be asking you for good reasons to stay or asking for you to help solve a problem.
- Remember to check your own assumptions at the door--give each advisee the same wisdom, optimism and honest assessment.
- You can review the registration process on the Registrar's page.
- Remind first-year students about the importance of deciding about changing a course before or on the first day (not day 2 or 3) if they think they might need to change it. It is very difficult to get into a new course after two days have passed.
- If you have international advisees, assess their English skills to the best of your ability and encourage them to choose courses in their strongest area the first couple blocks while they adjust to studying entirely in English. The block moves even faster in a second language! They are exempt from the foreign language requirement for the B.A. or B Mus.
- If you have student athletes as advisees, help them think about the time of year and to schedule courses that play to their strengths while they are in height of their season. Remind them to let their coach know if they are struggling to keep up with academics. Coaches here are supportive.
- Remind students how to find a tutor if they get into trouble in their first class and remind them of the importance of talking to their professor if struggling.
- Post office hours on your door so advisees know when and where to find you if they need advice or your signature later in the year.
- When your first-year advisees choose a permanent advisor, you will be sent email from registrar's office reminding you to pass the file to the new advisor. Please do so promptly via campus mail or in person.
- Before you give advice, consult the catalog for updates or changes. If you are in doubt, ask registrar's office, Office of Academic Support and Advising or look it up. New students in particular count on you as the voice for the campus and you want to offer accurate information.
Discussion topics for your early meetings with your advisee
- The college’s educational priorities
- Study habits: the difference between high school and college-level academic expectations.
- Academic survival skills
- The importance of connecting with professors through discussions in class, office hours, etc.
- Adding/dropping courses (online and via paper), 15th day drop policy (effort matters, grade doesn't).
- Off campus and international study, Berry Center, Dimensions, Cornell Fellows, Civic Engagement, independent study.
- College support services (Note: content tutoring, major exploration, Writing Studio, QRS, counseling, nurse)
- The student's personal experiences and goals. Sometimes they perceive a certain educational path or major is needed for a certain career and another direction might actually serve them better.
- If the student is first-generation going to college he/she may need additional career exploration as family may have presented limited options to the student based on limited exposure to college and options.
- Their adjustment to life in Iowa, small town Mt. Vernon, their residence hall, their roommate and the OCAAT life.
- Your method for doing things. Sometimes an advisee may struggle with active reading skills, note-taking, presentation skills and you do these things every day. Simply sharing the way you approach a text or task may give them some insights.
- If the student mentions an inability to learn a foreign language due to a learning disability, consult the Policy for Alternative Coursework for Students with Disabilities