College Proactive Advising
Unlike some other higher education institutions, Missouri State University’s first-generation students arrive academically prepared. Similarly, though, to other higher education institutions, our first-generation students experience significantly lower retention (+/-11%) and graduation rates (+/-12%). Once we realized that our first-generation students were as academically prepared as our continuing generation students, we posited that we needed a strategy to help our first-generation students access other resources to succeed at similar rates to our continuing generation students.
From our literature review and data analysis, we ascertained that they need:
- Information – help to enhance social capital related to college experience
- Increased Engagement – get connected to campus and community
- Additional Resources – financial competency and social skills
- Proactive Contact – via advisors, resident assistants, & student peers
Proactive Advising Approach Rationale
- Historically, one-third of first-time new freshmen entering MSU self-identify as first-generation students.
- First-generation students at MSU experience lower retention and graduation rates.
- Proactive advising can make a difference for students as they re-acculturate to the complex and hidden curriculum of college.
Proactive Advising Program Timeline
In the summer of 2017, one academic college expressed interest in piloting a proactive advising approach to assess whether retention rates could be improved for their first-generation students. Currently, three colleges are using this proactive advising program with first- and second-year students.
- College of Arts & Letters initiated the program in August 2017
- College of Natural & Applied Sciences joined in August 2018
- McQueary College of Health and Human Services joined in January 2020
College Proactive Advising Goals
- Increase retention rates for first-generation and underrepresented new first-time freshmen majors.
- Increase graduation rates for these cohorts of students.
- Eliminate or narrow the success gap between these students and their non-first-generation peers.
How we achieve the College Proactive Advising Goals
Our focus is on intentional or proactive contact with advisees to address issues and problems early and recommend appropriate interventions for students.
Our approach is building relationships akin to a professional mentor.
- Contact initiated by advisor – at critical periods (especially during the first year) when selecting a major, midterms, registration, etc.
- Active-concern approach – willingness to help students get connected with services that will improve academic success and motivation.
- Assistance to improve retention/graduation rates of students – preferred by many students, especially high achieving and at-risk students.
Proactive advising steps
- Connect early and often – explain your role as advisor – be available
- Employ variety of communication channels – text, emails, twitter, Facebook, phone
- Proactively monitor advisee progress – develop early warning indicators (know ACT scores, monitor mid-term and final grades, check on registration status, etc.)
- Know available campus resources – people you can directly refer students to for help
- Get trained – in relevant academic/non-academic areas that affect students
- Be caring, honest, positive – be willing to connect on campus outside office, always maintain clear professional boundaries.
Dr. Tracey Glaessgen, Associate Director, Center for Academic Success and Transition
Dr. Kelly Wood, Executive Director, Center for Academic Success and Transition
Dr. Mark Biggs, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Letters, Retired August 2019