Academic journal article College Student Journal

Advising At-Risk Students in College and University Settings

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Advising At-Risk Students in College and University Settings

Article excerpt

The importance of intrusive advising at-risk college and university students (i.e., students who: are ethnic minorities, are academically disadvantaged, have disabilities, are of low socioeconomic status, and are probationary students) has been repeatedly emphasized in the professional literature. Intrusive advising strategies are typically used with at-risk students, and are special techniques based on prescriptive, developmental, and integrated advising models. Numerous benefits to using intrusive advising are noted, along with examples of strategies used with five at-risk groups. Recommendations for college and university advisors include the need for a comprehensive plan that addresses intrusive advising, adequate faculty and advisor training, web supports for targeted students, development of comprehensive databases for managing student data, and ongoing research to evaluate intervention effectiveness.


Research literature on student retention and attrition suggests that contact with a significant person within an institution of higher education is a crucial factor in a student's decision to remain in college (Chickering & Gamson, 1987; Glennen, Farren, & Vowell, 1996). In the past few decades, many claims have been made with regard to the important role that quality academic advising programs play in the successful recruitment and retention of students (see e.g., Glennen et al., 1996; Habley, 1986; Habley & Crockett, 1988; Metzner, 1989; Trombley & Holmes, 1981). Higher education professionals who come in direct contact with students and understand the challenges they face are primary candidates for advisor/mentor roles. While faculty, administrators, and student affairs professionals all serve as student advocates and play an integral part in student retention and attrition, advisors are typically in the best positions to assist students in making quality academic decisions.

Of particular importance to academic advisors in college and university settings are students who are deemed to be at-risk (Jones & Watson, 1990; Kobrak, 1992). For purposes of this discussion, the term at-risk students will refer to several groups of individuals: students who are (a) ethnic minorities, (b) academically disadvantaged, (c) disabled, (d) of low socioeconomic status, and (e) probationary students.

Impact of At-Risk Students on Colleges and Universities

Jones and Watson (1990) have noted that at-risk students and their retention have a substantial impact on both institutions of higher education and society in general. Specifically, retention affects (a) funding patterns, (b) facilities planning, and (c) academic curricula offered. Retention also affects the future labor market, because students who do not have proper training for the workforce are generally unprepared to meet the expected roles and responsibilities associated with particular vocations.

Nationally, high student attrition (50%) among first year college students continues to be a trend (Arendale, 1993). Many authorities have discussed the reasons for academic attrition among at-risk students. For example, inequitable resource allocations across school districts and in home settings (i.e., low income vs. high income) result in fewer educational learning materials and experiences for some students (Jones & Watson, 1990; Lockard, Abrams, & Many, 1997; Piller, 1992; Resta, 1992).

Other authorities have described the effects of lowered expectations on the self-esteem of students in the early public school years, resulting in diminished self-confidence in academic potential and performance on entering college (Bandura, 1977; Higher Education Extension Service, 2000). Once students are enrolled in the college or university setting, they may not feel that they are a part of the campus community. They may become particularly vulnerable to feelings that they don't belong, feel rejected, and may not adjust to normal academic challenges associated with college life. …

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