The advising notes you record in SIS are the historical record of a student’s academic advising experience at DKU and are an essential responsibility for all advisors. In addition to your notes, notes may also be recorded by other members of a student’s advising network, i.e., the undergraduate advising office staff, Associate Dean for Academic Advising, and their faculty mentor once they declare their major.
Keeping good advising notes will enhance your advising work by reminding you of your experience with each of your students. For example, when you meet with your advisee late in the fall to register for spring classes, reviewing your notes from prior meetings and communications, as well as notes that may have been recorded by others, can help guide your discussion and prompt you about important issues to follow up on. Good advising notes can be especially helpful to a professional academic advisor and/or the Associate Dean for Academic Advising who is working with a student who is experiencing an academic challenge.
Advisors should enter notes appropriate for an academic record after every in-person, phone, and email interaction with your advisee during which information relevant to their academic program is exchanged. This should be done as soon as possible after the meeting/exchange. If you exchange emails with a student, it is fine to copy/cut and paste the email into notes; simply omit unnecessary text and, as discussed below, any inappropriate personal information.
Your advising notes become part of a student’s educational record and are protected by DKU’s policy on education records stated above. When you enter an advising note, you are creating a legal document that your advisee has the right to inspect and review by filing a request with the Office of the University Registrar. This is helpful to keep in mind so that you compose your advising notes in a factual and respectful manner, i.e., you would feel comfortable if the student were to read it.
Your advising comments can also be viewed by the undergraduate advising office staff and the Associate Dean for Academic Advising. In addition, once the student has declared a major and had a faculty mentor assigned, your notes will be viewable by the faculty mentor. These are additional reasons to compose your notes in a manner char is respectful of the student.
Personal or sensitive information (e.g., sexual misconduct, harassment, mental health) about a student should not be included in comments or otherwise communicated except to a school official with a legitimate educational interest (i.e., Associate Dean for Academic Advising)
Purpose, Academics, Influence, and Referrals is a useful acronym for developing a thorough and appropriate advising note.
What to Record in Your Advising Notes
PURPOSE: What is the purpose of the interaction, appointment, email, phone call, etc.? Who initiated the meeting?
Example – John initiated a meeting to review the courses he was considering for the spring semester. He also wanted to discuss his initial thoughts about possible majors and to see if I had suggestions about finding potential search opportunities.
ACADEMICS: What academic issues were discussed at the meeting? Did you discuss how your advisee is performing academically, how they are finding their courses, possible courses for next semester, academic interests and goals? Were any particular academic concerns discussed? Try to concisely summarize the academically relevant issues that were addressed.
Example – The main academic issues we discussed were how John’s first semester classes were going, what he was finding particularly interesting, and what courses for next semester would best march his interests; we also talked about new areas that he wanted to explore. John reported that he is enjoying his courses overall, especially his psychology course. Although his schedule is demanding, he feels that he has been staying on top of his work and is doing well. There were no particular academic concerns that he reported.
WHAT FACTORS ARE INFLUENCING STUDENT DECISION-MAKING AND/OR PERFORMANCE?: Here you will consider factors that are influencing a student’s academic plans and the pathways they are considering. For example, what leads them to the courses they are considering or the fields they are thinking about majoring in? What factors are impacting their long-term academic goals?
For some students – especially those who are struggling – you may also want to address factors that are influencing their academic performance. This is an area where discretion is important. If a student indicates that they are not devoting sufficient time to their work, that they are missing classes, and having difficulty with time management, those are all appropriate to include. However, if a student indicates that they have been unable to complete work because of depression, or for some other sensitive health issue, the specific nature of their difficulties should not be included. Instead, you can indicate that the student reports that health issues have interfered with their academic performance.
This information should be excluded from your notes because even though the student felt comfortable disclosing their circumstances to you, anything you record will become visible to other academic advisors in SIS, and, the student may not want these individuals to know about mental health challenges or other personal issues they were struggling with.
When a student discloses information that concerns you, you should contact the Senior/Coordinator for Academic Advising and/or the Associate Dean for Academic Advising. In general, the Senior/Coordinator for Academic Advising and/or the Associate Dean for Academic Advising should be contacted whenever you have concerns about a student so that s/he can decide what interventions may be necessary and appropriate. It is appropriate to let the student know that you are concerned and will be sharing your concerns with the Office of Undergraduate Advising so we can work together to best support the students.
Below are examples of the information that would be appropriate to record for students who are doing well academically, struggling for non-health reasons, and struggling because of health reasons.
Example 1 (student who is doing well) – John attributes his strong academic performance so far to his high level of interest in his classes and to his study skills. He is careful to keep up with his work and to seek out help from professors and TAs when there are things he does not understand or has questions about.
Example 2 (student who is struggling for non-health reasons) – We discussed why John believes he is struggling academically this semester. He attributed this to a variety of factors. Several of his classes (Integrate Science: Biology and Math 101) are very difficult and he is having a hard time understanding the material. In addition, he recognizes that he has not been making the effort required to be successful in these classes and is not accustomed to having to work as hard as he needs to. When asked about the efforts he has made to seek help, it was evident that John has not yet pursued any of the resources that are available to him, e.g., attend office hours, work with Academic Success Tutors in the Academic Resource Center, etc.
Example 3 (student who is struggling because of health reasons) – John and I discussed factors that may be contributing to his academic struggles chis semester. Although John believes he is capable of doing well in his classes, he described some significant personal issues and health challenges that have made it difficult for him to attend class regularly and keep on top of his work. I strongly encouraged him to reach out to CAPS to discuss his circumstance and we discuss support resources available on campus. I also let him know that I would also be following up with the Office of Undergraduate Advising to best support him.
Did you provide any referrals or specific directions for your advisee? Did you mention a faculty member, staff member, Associate Dean for Academic Advising, or Dean of Undergraduate Studies by name? Did you recommend a specific class, a global or civic activity, a campus organization or club, CAPS, or the Career Services? If a second or third meeting, did your advisee follow up on your previous recommendation? This information is helpful to include because it documents your efforts to connect a student with appropriate resources. When you review your notes prior to a subsequent meeting, it can prompt you to check in on whether the student followed through and what their experience was.
Example – In response to John’s discussion of his academic struggles, I referred him to the Office of Undergraduate Advising and let him know that I would also be contacting the Associate Dean for Academic Advising directly. I also encouraged him to begin taking advantage of office hours and to schedule an appointment with the Academic Resource Center for assistance with time management and study skills, areas where he felt he was weak.
What Else to Record
In addition to the above basics, you should record other relevant issues you would like to track, e.g., how the student is feeling about their experience overall, summer plans, other items you want to remember to ask about in a subsequent email or meeting. For example, if the student indicates s/he had just started motoring elementary school child, including that in your note will prompt you to ask about their experience the next time you meet. Students appreciate when their advisor remembers what they discussed and follows up in subsequent meetings. Without this information included in advising notes most of us will find it hard to recall these details.
What Not to Record
Do not discuss student dress or personal appearance unless directly related to the student’s academic performance.
Advisors should be cautious when documenting topics that contain sensitive subject matter. These include, but are not limited to, disability, religious and/or political affiliation, perceived or disclosed sexual orientation, medical diagnosis (including a student’s HIV status), or information that could be potentially detrimental to the student if it were revealed to a third party. If you believe any of these issues might be directly affecting your advisee’s academic performance, consult with the Associate Dean for Academic Advising before alluding to the issues in your notes.
Sensitive personal issues should not be described in detail in SIS. As noted previously, your comments will become viewable to other advisors who the student may not want to have this information. Thus, rather than noting that “…the student disclosed significant symptoms of anxiety and depression and I referred her to CAPS and to Associate Dean for Academic Advising” you could note “…the student noted several personal health issues during our meeting. She was directed to appropriate campus resources and to the Associate Dean for Academic Advising.” Similarly, instead of recording that “the student had a mental breakdown,” write “had a discussion with the student on wellness.”
If you are unsure about whether to include certain information in an advising note, contact the Senior Coordinator for Academic Advising or Associate Dean for Academic Advising to discuss.
INAPPROPRIATE VS. APPROPRIATE COMMENTS
Below are examples of what would be considered an inappropriate comment followed by an example of how it could be rewritten to more appropriately convey the relevant information.
Example – Theresa
Inappropriate: “Theresa has been dealing with food-related issues and I think she has anorexia because I can see all of her bones and she looks emaciated. She has gone to CAPS and is now part of their earing-disorders group. Additionally, Theresa does not dress appropriately – she is always scantily clad; she looks like she is dressed for the club, not the quad. I hope she doesn’t go to any professor’s office hours dressed like that – it’s just disrespectful. We talked about courses for spring semester and what major she might choose.”
Appropriate: “Theresa initiated a meeting with me about her spring schedule and plans for major declaration. I’m concerned about the impact of Theresa’s health and behavior on her academic performance. She is, however, using appropriate campus resources to address these personal issues. I alerted the Associate Dean for Academic Advising about what was going on and I let Theresa know that I was obligated to do so. I also shared information with Theresa about how to network and develop mentoring relationships with faculty. I asked Theresa about activities that she is involved in and she reported that she has started tutoring at a local elementary school and that she was finding this to be quire rewarding. She indicated that this had sparked an interest in education and we discussed ways that she could explore and pursue that interest.
Example – Bob
Inappropriate: “Bob is nor performing well in his premed courses and there is no way he will ever get into any medical school of merit – he is just plain lazy; he hasn’t done anything since we last met and it’s no wonder he is still flunking.”
Appropriate: Keep to the facts. “I asked Bob to come in today to discuss his mid-term grades. He continues to experience difficulty in Integrated Science 1 and wonders about the implications this will have when he applies to medical school. Bob has not followed up on my suggestions that he meet with his chemistry instructor during office hours or seek out a peer tutor in chemistry through the Academic Resource Center. He has also not yet met with the prehealth advisor as I have recommended. We discussed the importance of his pursuing these resources that can be helpful to him and he once again indicated that he planned to do so. I asked Bob if he had gotten involved in any activities/organizations and he indicated that he had not but was interested in doing so. We discussed ways that he could pursue this.”