Defining Developmental Advising

Developmental academic advising is more than just signing forms and approving course choices. It involves seeing students as growing and changing over time, with needs that grow and change as they do. It means seeing the whole person, and providing a sounding board, a resource, and a means of support as that person faces a range of choices and challenges throughout the college years. Advisors provide encouragement to pursue all the opportunities of a liberal arts education and our university. They provide a place to turn when a student has concerns. And they provide support when a student needs assistance.

The notion of "development" is important both to the advising relationship, which develops over time, and to the students, who are developing as they move through their college experience. The needs of a first-year student are typically different from those of a senior, and developmental advising responds to those and other changing needs.

Of course, advising is a shared responsibility of both the advisor and the student. An academic advisor is not meant to act as parent or decision maker, telling the student what choices to make or even making choices on the student's behalf. Rather the advisor and student work together, with the student making choices while the advisor acts as a resource to help manage the complexity of college life, and also as someone who can present options students might not see on their own. Some of these options include:

  • Research with faculty, internships, and independent studies
  • Major, minor, and course choices
  • Coming to understand the breadth and depth of a liberal arts education
  • Participation in the community and co/extra-curricular activities, including the arts
  • Study abroad
  • Career considerations and preparation
  • Exploring religious/spiritual life
  • Healthy life choices

Ultimately, strong developmental advising provides a supportive partnership, where the student (as decision maker) works over time with a knowledgeable advisor to shape the best choices possible, thereby making the most of a Richmond education.