Student Success Insights Blog

Surprising facts about advisors from this year's NACADA conference



Lindsay Miars

Lindsay Miars, Associate Director
Student Success Collaborative

For the second year in a row, two of my colleagues and I had the opportunity to attend the annual conference of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), a convening of more than 3,000 advisors and advising leaders.


The first thing we noticed was the number of familiar faces. SSC members led nearly half of the 350 sessions, which demonstrates how fortunate we are to have a progressive and innovative membership. The sessions and workshops covered a variety of topics, from crisis intervention to social media.

Without the presence of administrators or other high-level leaders, advisors could speak freely about the work they do and the challenges they face. We found the sessions to be insightful, so we wanted to share a few things you may not know about your advisors.



For advisors, it's not about numbers

While advisors feel the pressure to maintain enrollment and increase retention, what motivates them on a daily basis is the students in front of them. One attendee said it best: "It's not about retention. 'Retention' is a word for enrollment management. It's about supporting individual students."

Advisors care deeply about their work with students and are constantly looking for ways to strengthen their practice. A bump in institutional success rates is icing on the cake, not a driving force. This is something to consider when communicating with advisors on your campus.

  • Meet us at APLU's Annual Meeting

    Join SSC members Southern Illinois University, Georgia State University, and the University of Kansas for a breakout session on student success at the APLU's Annual Meeting on Nov. 2 from 3:30-4:45 p.m. ET. Learn more.


Many advisors were first generation college students themselves

These advisors know first-hand the importance of effective academic advising. As college access expands to include increasingly diverse populations, advisors must serve the role of "cultural navigators," supporting students new to the culture of higher education and explaining norms and expectations they haven't encountered before.

This includes not just first generation students, but also "first experience" students—students navigating health issues, part-time employment, or parenthood for the first time. Advisors are beginning to recognize and embrace proactive, hands-on advising as key to supporting these students.

  • Want more on this topic? Check out Next-Generation Advising, which profiles inventive, cost-effective strategies colleges and universities have used to personalize advising support. Read the study.


Advisors are struggling to be recognized as professionals

NACADA was formed more than 30 years ago, but the professionalization of academic advising is still in early stages. In numerous sessions, advising leaders presented institutional practices for evaluating, training, and promoting advising staff.

But these practices are still the exception, not the rule. Advisors are increasingly demanding to see evidence of professionalization in their own advising offices. Institutions that step up and deliver are seeing advisors perform better and stay longer.

Learn More at Our National Summit

At our upcoming National Summit, we'll address the expanding role of advisors and how SSC is working to help frontline staff meet the evolving needs and demands of today's students. To register and preview the agenda, visit our meeting page.

Learn More


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