The Approach of Holistic Advising

By Diann Cameron Kelly, Associate Provost for Student Success and
Debra Kyriacou, Executive Director, Office of Academic Services & Retention

“Holistic advising focuses on developing human potential and requires a commitment to social justice.”   Dr. Rani Varghese, Associate Professor, School of Social Work, Winner, Teaching Excellence Award, 2020

Holistic advising is described by some as an approach or mindset to supporting students on the path to academic success. This type of advising looks at the whole person, because whatever they are going through in their personal lives can influence their academic success. At Adelphi University, we want to develop the whole person and help our students become more mature and self-aware.

The key to holistic advising is to understand and focus on the student as a whole person.

  • Where an individual is in their development;
  • What they are currently experiencing in their lives; and
  • What their goals and aspirations are.

Through this understanding, advisors help students gain strategies to make solid decisions, problem solve and persist through difficulties as they reach for their goal of graduation. Holistic advising is tailored to ensure the individual student has their needs met. It requires the advisor to know their student through a holistic lens. Holistic advising is analogous to a locked door scenario. The student has various keys that may not fit a locked door. Holistic advising is the key that opens the door allowing the student to walk confidently into their future. Holistic advisors work to remove the barriers students face in their education. An ideal process to holistic advising during a semester is:

  • Reaching out to advisees early in the term to schedule an appointment. This means finding out what their needs are – financial, social, psychological, or other – that may inhibit their persistence toward graduation. The more you know about a student, the more you are able to meet their needs and refer them to services on campus.
  • Discussing with students what their academic goals and plans are and noting that information. Students may have life-long goals. Many of these goals were apparent even before they came to Adelphi. However, our job is to capture the reality of these goals and help the student reach those goals through a realistic plan.
  • If a referral needs to be made, make that referral and follow up with the student. This is where trust is critical. When a student trusts the advisor, the advisor’s impact is significant. Before the referral is made, explain to the student the significance of the referral and what to expect. After the referral, follow up with the student to make certain they are doing well and whether the academic/social/financial goals are still realistic or if the goals need to be changed.
  • Schedule an appointment for open planning and review course scheduling with the student. Keep in mind the overall academic goals of the student and how realistic those goals are during open planning.
  • Advise student to register for courses. Make certain those courses meet the academic goals of the student.
  • Reach out to advisees before the term ends to see if there is anything they need before the end of the semester.

In conclusion, advisors are the first line of defense for a student. They have the ability to help make the college career of a student successful and meaningful. Further, this relationship has the potential to extend well beyond graduation. Students rely on this relationship for their academic progress and career development. However, there are times when a student may face a concern, whether financial, academic, social, or psychological. A holistic advisor is there to be that support for the student, lending robust advisement that lasts a lifetime.


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