Undeclared Advising

This is a recommended outline of meetings and topics for use when advising undeclared first-year students. It is not meant to be restrictive or limiting, but rather to provide a guide for consideration when preparing to serve as an academic advisor. This meeting structure, including eight meetings during the first year and four meetings during the second year, requires a considerable investment of time and energy by both advisor and advisee, however, it establishes an expectation of support, concern, and connection between faculty and students—the kind of expectation that should be met at an institution like Richmond.

Undoubtedly, some students will be resistant to meetings and may not even be willing to respond to e-mails. Other students are such self-starters that they simply require less advising than most. Those exceptions aside, a majority of our students will benefit from a series of meetings like that listed below. Advisors are encouraged to adjust the topics, timing, and location to suit their needs and advisees.

Year One

Fall semester – Four meetings

  1. Individual Advisee Meetings During Orientation
    Purpose: To get to know one another more personally. To go over the fall schedule together, making any necessary schedule changes. Remind your student to complete the online FERPA form (found here) and be certain you have accurate contact information. 
  2. Group Meal (Typically held during the first few weeks of the semester.)
    Purpose: To continue getting to know one another. To find out how your first few weeks have gone academically. To offer you an opportunity for questions. To make any necessary referrals. (For some advisors, having an outgoing junior/senior student or two also attend can make this more comfortable.)
  3. Individual “General Issues” Meetings (Roughly Week 6)
    Purpose: To take a few minutes to look ahead over the next four years and beyond. To talk about other available university services (particularly Career Services, CAPS, Academic Skills Center, Office of International Education, and the Academic Advising Resource Center). To overview general education more thoroughly and talk about creating a more intentional general education.
  4. Pre-registration advising meeting (Usually around Week 10)
    Purpose: To discuss your spring semester schedule, assess semester progress, discuss progress toward choosing a major.
    A follow-up email after registration is always wise, particularly since students often wind up registering for courses far different from the ones planned during advising. If courses are closed and students are confused about back-up choices, additional individual meetings may be necessary.

Spring semester – Three meetings

  1. Early Semester Group Meeting (Lunch/coffee/dinner during the first few weeks of the semester.)
    Purpose: To get reacquainted and talk about the first semester adjustment, highs/lows. (This meeting might include both first-year and second-year advisees if you have them.)
  2. Individual “General Issues” Meetings (Week 6 or 7)
    Purpose: To assess academic progress thus far. To discuss any progress toward choosing a major. To review summer plans, and consider co-curricular/extra-curricular programs for year two. To discuss topics such as undergraduate research, the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement, Study Abroad, pre-law/pre-health/pre-business/pre-LDSP advisors, etc.
  3. Pre-registration advising meeting (Around Week 10)
    Purpose: To discuss your spring semester schedule.
    Assignment: Bring your planned schedule for fall with you, including alternate courses in case you don’t get your first choices. As always, be prepared to talk about your academic experience thus far.

If first-year advising has gone well, most students will feel comfortable “stopping by” and/or interacting with you informally. In this case, you may be seeing some of your advisees more than described here. Either way, try and be sure you’re discussing a breadth of topics with each advisee during the course of your interactions (not only choosing courses for the following semester). One goal of “developmental” advising is to prepare students for major advising in which the advisor/advisee relationships are typically more fluid, topics are widely ranging. Advisor/major-advisee interactions tend to occur in class and out, sometimes include other department faculty discussion specific issues, and tend to increasingly include more focused career/post-graduation concerns. Building the foundation for those interactions in undeclared advising will help create a more seamless advising process.

Further, from a developmental perspective, these eight meetings should have provided students with the background they need to be making their own informed decisions about course selection, major choices, and social activities. This doesn't mean they will as yet have confidence about their decisions, or that all of their decisions will be wise ones, but students should have gained access to the resources and information they need to make the most of their Richmond education.

Year Two

Fall semester – Two meetings

  1. Early semester group meeting (lunch, coffee, dinner)
    Purpose: To become reacquainted, discuss this as the year to choose a major/minor, and to encourage means of exploring possible majors (e.g., talking with faculty, peers, and family, using Career Services and AARC resources). *Hold individual meetings as necessary here roughly Week 6 with any second-year students still uncertain about their choice of major.
  2. Pre-registration advising meeting (Around Week 10)
    Purpose: Plan spring semester schedule, continuing to update the four-year plan. Talk about progress toward choosing a major. If student has chosen a major after week 2 of this semester, have student meet with new major advisor before coming to you for final registration advising.

Spring Semester – One meeting/Two meetings

  1. Week One – Individual meeting with any second-year undeclared advisee who has yet to declare a major.
    Purpose: At this point, students who are still uncertain about major choice are likely to need significant encouragement to identify a major. You will need to work closely with the student and all available resources (e.g., the Career Services, CAPS, the appropriate residential dean’s office, the AARC, relevant faculty in areas of potential interest, etc.). This meeting should be held during the first week so that those students who wish to declare a major can do so by the declaration deadline the end of week two.
  2. Pre-registration advising meeting (Around Week 10)
    Purpose: Plan fall schedule, continue to update the four-year plan.
    (Typically, most all students will have declared a major by now, or will be meeting with you this last time prior to declaring their major. Those who have declared a major should be encouraged to meet with their new major-advisor to discuss course choices before meeting with you. If students declare a major after the first two weeks of this semester, you will still remain their advisor of record and thus be responsible for changing their advising status on BannerWeb. Thus, you should meet with them one last time for fall registration advising to ensure a good transition to the major advisor.)

    Of course, a variety of topics and timing-adjustments might suit a particular advisor over those presented here. For instance, one might want to hold a “de-briefing meeting” over coffee at the end of first semester rather than at the beginning of the second, or one might want to invite students to a meal at home rather than a lunch on campus. However it is done, the goal is to encourage substantive and thoughtful advisor/advisee interactions over time.