It’s All in a Day’s Work

If I had a quarter for every time that someone asked me exactly what I do all day…

Well I would have a couple hundred bucks. Maybe. But it still feels like I get asked that all the time.

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I am a Student Success Advisor, which is an Academic Advisor of sorts.

I work at a small private liberal arts college, which means everyone is wearing a lot of hats. And that is no exception for my office of three people.

My office deals with everything. We have a focus on retention work, but that entails everything on the campus level. If you think about it, everything from the caliber of classes down to what is being served in the dining hall affects retention on some level. So naturally we deal with it all.

We have an early alert system where any staff or faculty can write a concern that they have for a student, and then our office either reaches out to that student ourselves or facilitates passing it along to the appropriate area. A huge chunk of our responsibility is managing these alerts and making sure the students who need assistance are receiving it. We do some manual alerts throughout the semester such as attendance, late payments, not meeting with advisor, just to name a few. We are not traditional Academic Advisors in the sense that students do not have to meet with us for registration, but we do assist in registration matters and four year plans.

My main responsibility though is meeting with all the students who are on probation. These are students whose cumulative GPA fell below a 2.0. They are required to meet with me three times during the semester, but most choose to meet more. I have a couple students who are meeting with me every week. We discuss old habits and make goals for new ones. We take a pretty close look at what brought them here to probation and the best plan to get them off. I take a look at them as a whole person. We don’t just talk about classes, but we also take a look at their jobs, families, basically any out of class experience to see how it is impacting them. Usually there is a lot going on with these students that make a difference on their success in the classroom. I also have to have some conversations that getting off of probation is not realistic and advise the student through the next steps. A lot of these students are also raking up loans, so we often discuss that as well. (The financial piece is the most nerve-wracking part of my job.)

You would be surprised by how many students do not come to college prepared AT ALL. They need help to stay. And I feel that my job is to have stark conversations with these individuals and provide them with resources and tools to be successful. I tell them that I am their coach, but ultimately they are the play-makers. I want to leave them in a position where they can do this on their own. I am here to help, but they have to do the work. It’s my job to make suggestions, but it is their job to make the changes. Some choose to, and some don’t. I find though that a lot of these students want to do well, they just have never been taught how to utilize their strengths to make things work for them.

I really do love this approach of coaching students on their academic success. If you think about an athletic coach, the way we approach our advising is the same way. They come in for regular practice and warm-ups, and we facilitate that training. Than they go and perform. It can be an intrusive approach, but generally we see that it helps keep more students on track for graduation who would have given up without the guidance. Our office has become a liaison for students to all things college. It is really amazing the buckets we have our hands in. I think I asked every day last semester, “Is that really our scope?” To which the reply was, “It is now.” I am ok being a catch-all department though because it keeps things interesting. It is also pushing me professionally to delve into areas I have never had experience in (i.e. financial aid).

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In the first two weeks of classes this is what my schedule has looked like:

  • 21 individual hour long meetings with probation students
  • Spent at least 10 hours prepping for those meetings (going over transcripts, configuring GPAs for repeated coursework, gathering general knowledge about the student, and creating their coaching folders)
  • Met 3 times with two other staff members about a workshop we were designing for Student Success
  • Put on said workshop
  • Had 3 campus meetings that either pertained to academic advising or retention efforts
  • 2 office staff meetings
  • 1 student staff meeting
  • Assisted with training three new staff members
  • Spent 3 hours working on an online advising certification course I am taking (chapter reading, discussion posts-entry and response)
  • A couple hours working on our second year experience initiative (brainstorming and researching)
  • I am running a pilot mentoring program through our office, so I spent a couple hours working on this. I collected names for mentoring opportunities and contacted those students to set up meetings. I also created a meeting outline for the semester off of things I have used at other institutions-no need to recreate the wheel my friends.
  • Ran attendance alerts and contacted students who missed classes in the first week to remind them of the “withdraw without penalty” deadline
  • Checking in (several times) with probation students who have yet to schedule their appointment with me
  • Every day I update our Retention Alert system with any notes I have from the meetings that day (this can take me anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour depending on the day)
  • Helped organize all the books for our book scholarship that our office does each semester
  • Double checked a colleague’s report on un-used scholarship funds
  • I had a few student walk-in concerns ranging from their schedule being dropped to losing a scholarship. A lot of problem solving time with emails, phone calls, and calming of fears.
  • Handling concerns from our front desk area-the first couple days of classes were particularly nutty
  • And of course email management and other random administrative tasks like data collection happen on a daily basis-some days are slower than others.

I also serve on a couple committees that meet randomly throughout the month. Again most of them pertain to prevention strategies or retention efforts.

So that is what I do in a nutshell!

I really love my job. The only thing missing from my job description to make this THE perfect job is doing something with learning communities. I enjoy getting to work with the at-risk population or those students who are considered in the middle. Helping them be successful gets me jazzed. Academic Coaching is really where my heart is. I love teaching in this individual manner. Giving these students attention sometimes makes all the difference in their success.

And then this is my life. Yes to every.single.statement.

What do you do at your job?

9 thoughts on “It’s All in a Day’s Work

  1. OMG! I LOL’ed at the “what my students think I do.” That’s fantastic that you have a job that you love doing. Our advisers weren’t the greatest. I mostly stuck to double checking my requirements online.

    • I think there is definitely a shift going on in the profession to have more training and to have more time with students. But change doesn’t always happen over night!

  2. I just love seeing you in a job that you love having followed your frustration last year. It sounds like it is keeping you busy but in the best possible way. Being a teacher, everyone thinks they know what I do, but it’s so much more than people realize. The prep work, the documentation, the meetings, the pressure! You really want work with kids (even college age kids) unless you have a heart for it.

  3. Pingback: 4 Years |

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