First Year Student Advising

The first-year advising program at Puget Sound began in September, 1974. Its key feature is the assignment of students to relatively small “advising classes,” the instructors of which serve as their academic advisors. Advising classes are designed to ensure regular contact with and support from advisors for advisees during the critical first term of their college careers. Entering first-year students are considered “open” with respect to major as they begin, and so first-year advisors can expect their advisees to be destined for a variety of academic majors. First-year advisors can expect to advise their entering students up to the point at which they declare a major, which may be as late as the end of the sophomore year.

All full-time faculty members are expected to serve as academic advisors in accordance with the Faculty Code, so the first-year advising program is designed to rotate faculty advisors through the program on a regular cycle. Each year the director of advising requests the names of roughly 50 faculty members from across the campus to serve as first-year advisors. In early spring those advisors provide course descriptions of their advising classes which are distributed in an advising bulletin to entering students for them to make selections. Advisor training sessions (to provide a foundation for new advisors and a refresher for veterans) are offered in the spring and early fall.

First-year students arrive on campus for orientation already placed in their advising classes (and their first-year seminars). Their advisors meet with them as a group early in orientation week, then individually later to formulate their academic plans for the fall term. After individual advising sessions have taken place, advising groups go through their first registration for classes together, with the support of their advisors and registration staff. 

Once fall classes begin, advisors check in with their advisees to see that their classes are a good fit, and make referrals as needed for tutoring or learning support to the Center for Writing, Learning and Teaching. With the assistance of their peer advisors, advisors can keep track of advisees of concern and provide additional support. Midterm grades are posted at about the same time that advising for spring registration takes place, and most advisors work with their advisees on both responses to the grading news and planning for spring classes at the same time. First-year advisors are allotted $8 per advisee for social activities during the academic year. Many advisors use the funds for “advising pizza parties” organized by their peer advisors just prior to registration for spring classes. These gatherings can offer an efficient way to work with advisees as a group.

Spring advising activities are similar to those in fall, with the difference that advisees are no longer enrolled in their advisors’ classes (in most cases), and may be harder to reach. In some cases (particularly those in which a student has not performed well in fall term), early intervention in spring term is necessary. Peer advisors can be used to arrange early contact in such cases. Peer advisors can also be used to sustain contact through the spring term with any “worry cases,” and to arrange advising pizza parties for fall registration, as well. Sustaining an advising relationship with a first-year advisee in the spring term may be a challenge, but it can be critical to the student’s momentum with respect to academic goals in a term when many students run low on energy and commitment to their studies.

Advisors can play a key role for advisees in their second year, the “year of decision.” Students are expected to declare an academic major by the end of the second year, and advisors can help their advisees think through their options. Often referrals are necessary—to colleagues in other departments, to the Office of Academic Advising, to Career and Employment Services—to help students make a satisfying, well-informed decision. Academic direction and motivation are significant concerns at the end of the first year and through the second year (major contributors to student attrition at Puget Sound), and a solid relationship between advisor and advisee can be critical in keeping students with us and moving purposefully toward completing their degrees.