4B. Anatomy of an Academic Advising Interaction

An academic advising interaction encompasses 5 areas:

  1. Preparation
  2. Interaction
  3. Summary
  4. Documentation
  5. Follow-Up

If the academic advisor adequately covers each area in the sequence, the interaction will be more relevant and informative for the student and the academic advisor. If any of these areas are short-changed, the interaction is weakened and the academic advisor will wind up spending more time with the student in future interactions.

The anatomy of an academic advising interaction is based on in-person, 45 — 60 minute academic advising appointments. However, the process used to cover each of the 5 areas of the interaction will also work for walk-in, telephone, distance email or chat, and shorter in-person appointments.


Preparation for the academic advising interaction begins with the physical office environment. It is vital that the academic advising interaction is conducted in a confidential space with the student having a place to write and have an unobstructed view of the academic advisor. Some academic advisors show students online information from their desktop or laptop computers, so there should be easy access for the student to view the office computer.

It’s also critical that students can find their academic advisor easily and that the academic advisor is available during posted hours during the semester and between semesters. Academic advisors on less than 12-month contracts will need to publicize who is responsible for advising their students in their absence.

Print materials to have on hand in the office include:

Web-based information to have bookmarked for easy access include:


There are 6 elements to an academic advising interaction to be addressed in the first one or two interactions in order to establish enough information to adequately advise the student:

  1.  Introduction (formal or informal) — some academic advisors wear name badges when interacting with new advisees. It’s important for academic advisors to remember to introduce themselves and say the student’s name (ask if there is a preferred nickname, if any).
  2. Educational Background/Career Plan/Influences — It’s important for academic advisors to find out why students chose their intended major; how their high school or previous college experiences impacted their curricular choice; what career opportunities they think they will have upon graduation; and who or what influenced their curricular choice. Even students who are undeclared (General Studies) or wavering in their commitment to their major, have some opinions about the major(s) they want to study or don’t want to study.
  3.  Relationship of Abilities & Interests to Educational & Career Plans –   Whenever possible, it’s beneficial for the academic advisor to review the student’s placement scores and/or transcript on UAOnline before the interaction. This information, coupled with the information gathered from element 2 above will help the academic advisor determine how academically prepared the student is for the intended major and whether the student’s interests are consistent with the academic curriculum associated with the intended major. Some students have familial or community pressure to enter certain majors and some students have unrealistic expectations of majors gleaned from a film or television show.
  4. Enrollment Suitability/Alternatives/Administrative Actions – This element may seem like a moot point for students enrolled in a specific disciplinary major, however, most students are unfamiliar with the majority of UAF majors and may discover an interest or ability in another major after their first semester. The academic advisor may discuss other degree options (if applicable), or concentrations within the student’s intended major, or discuss a minor in the field of study as a way to stay connected to a major that the student was interested in. Ascertaining a student’s interest in majors in a related field, or in a subject area the student has received good grades may also be pertinent, especially if the student is thinking about changing their major. Administrative actions may include completing forms regarding registration deadlines, changing major, applying for graduation, applying for internship or scholarship opportunities.
  5.  Co-Curricular Activities — There are plenty of opportunities for students to round out their university experience (i.e., clubs, intramural sport, campus employment, chorus, student radio, and leadership programs) through co-curricular activities on and off campus. Some of these activities may be related to the student’s intended major or minor, and some may not. Exploring co-curricular activities helps the academic advisor determine if the student is too involved in non-academic activity, wherein the co-curricular activities are interfering with the student’s academic progress, or if the student is not involved enough in non-academic activity, thereby increasing the likelihood the student may burn out before graduation.
  6.  Other Issues/Concerns — Students may bring up issues that are outside the purview of the academic advisor, so the academic advisor will need to refer the student to an appropriate campus or community resource. The academic advisor may provide strategies to help the student study more effectively, or correct mis-information the student has concerning their educational plan. Identifying student barriers to success (i.e., full-time employment, family obligations, limited financial resources, long commute time) as well as supports for success (i.e., flexible work hours, scholarship, family member who is willing to tutor, supportive colleagues) is an important part of the conversation.


Unfortunately, too many academic advisors neglect to summarize the interaction with the student and a verbal and/or written summary helps cement important points discussed by the academic advisor and the student.   Even a quick paraphrase of what was discussed is useful, so the student is more likely to remember the interaction.

Some students write down a “to-do’ list at the end of the interaction that pinpoints the actions the student needs to take (register for courses on UAOnline, turn in an add/drop form) and includes contact information for any referrals.

Just as it is important for academic advisors to introduce themselves, it is important to bookend the academic advising interaction with a brief query and closing statement. Some academic advisors ask a question like, “Did we cover what you wanted to during this appointment?’ if the answer is yes, the academic advisor can end the meeting and say farewell. If the answer is no, then a follow-up appointment can be made or, if time permits, the interaction will be cycled back to one or more of the 6 elements listed above.


UAOnline includes academic advising appointment screens for academic advisors to enter notes about an academic advising session. Academic advising notes can only be viewed by academic advisors who have successfully completed the  UAOnline’s Faculty & Adviser Services: Academic Advising Appointment Tutorial where the quiz score will be automatically sent to Crystal Goula, Director of Student Data Systems. Allow one to two business days to obtain clearance to access the Academic Advising Appointment links in UAOnline.

The advantages to documenting interactions on UAOnline include being able to read notes from other academic advisors who have seen the student; ability to run reports concerning number of students advised, number of academic advising interactions per student, and so on.(Insert UAOnline Academic Advising Appointment Instructions here).

Use the Academic Advising Check-sheet to make notes during the academic advising interaction or if a computer is not available. The Check-sheet can be copied and pasted or typed into UAOnline academic advising appointment screens, ideally within 24 hours of the interaction. The notes can also be used as a prompt for the academic advisor to remember to tell the student something in an upcoming interaction that may have been missed in the previous appointment.

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Try to get the next academic advising appointment set up before the student leaves. Some students only need to see their academic advisor once or twice a semester to touch base, adjust their educational plan, and make use of the academic advisor’s expertise and contacts for internships, research and other opportunities. However, some students, especially those who are struggling with courses or not making satisfactory academic progress, will benefit by meeting with their academic advisor on a monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly basis.

Prepare for the upcoming appointment beforehand by reviewing the student’s academic advising notes on UAOnline, filling in the Check-sheet as much as possible, and jotting down potential questions to ask the student about progress on his or her “to-do’ list or referrals, or outline potential opportunities that might benefit the student. Always follow FERPA requirements.

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