Advisors want to spend 50% less time on these activities

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Advisors want to spend 50% less time on these activities

At EAB, our Student Success Collaborative researchers think about advisors all day long. We’re constantly looking for ways to make their lives easier, and to help them have a greater impact on the students they advise.

As part of this work, we wanted to better understand the typical day of an academic advisor—in particular, how they spend their time, minute-by-minute, in meetings with students. We sat down with nearly 30 advisors to find out where they spend most of their time when meeting with students, most often during mandatory advising sessions.

We were curious to learn:

What activities take up most of an advisor’s time when meeting with students?

Are advisors spending time on activities they think are the most impactful?

Would advisors redistribute their time to have a greater impact if they could?

Here’s what they told us:

Academic Advisor Data

Not surprisingly, advisors said they want to spend about 50% less time in typical advising sessions on “transactional” activities like course selection and scheduling creation. Instead, they’d like to redistribute that time on longer-term, strategic activities like coaching, helping students think about the future, and addressing personal issues. These activities are seen as higher value to advisors.

As schools take an increasingly holistic approach to student success, advisors want to spend more time helping students develop a clear focus for their college journey. Advisors want to ask, “What are you trying to get out of your time in school, and what resources can we provide to help get you there?” These conversations require more time getting to know the student, their background, and their goals for the future.

However, most advisors are hamstrung by course planning and scheduling practices that leave little time in a 30-minute meeting to discuss anything else. One advisor lamented that he feels like a “degree plan vending machine,” constantly churning out plans to student after student.

Four challenges with the current academic planning process
1
Course planning is not “one size fits all"
Departments and advising offices invest significant time in creating standardized degree maps or program templates to help guide students through their programs. However, no two students are alike, and program pathways are often unique—especially at schools that encourage academic exploration. As such, advisors and students must work together semester after semester to create personalized plans from scratch.
2
Existing planning technology is difficult to use
Advisors told us that current technology offerings that support course planning are confusing, not user-friendly, and often inaccurate. As a result, most advisors we spoke with are still creating plans by hand on paper with students and updating those plans each semester, taking up the majority of valuable 20- or 30-minute meetings.
3
Students are often not engaged
Because the current offerings are difficult to use, and materials are spread across multiple locations (e.g., course catalog, degree audit system, templatized degree maps, program checklists), students often don’t know where to begin. Students we interviewed lack the confidence to make any academic planning decisions on their own, and thereby default to advisors completing the task for them.
4
Proactively catching problems is tedious
Many advising offices have developed manual recordkeeping and workflows, often involving multiple Excel files and lists, to track and find students with potential planning errors. These systems are often time-consuming and difficult to maintain over time. Not to mention, any time spent on administrative tracking is time not spent face-to-face with students.

We as an industry are asking advisors to play quarterback in a broader student success mission, but course selection and planning still demand the lion’s share of their attention. It’s no wonder advisors said they want to spend less time on transactional activities.

Easing the burden of “churning out schedules” is crucial to help advisors develop meaningful relationships with students and to facilitate a holistic approach to student success. As one advisor told me, “I would love to have a better relationship with the student, because I feel like that is what’s going to help them learn to be more empowered with their education.”

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