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Academic Advising Handbook > Responsibilities of Advisers and Advisees

Academic Advising Handbook

Responsibilities of Advisers and Advisees

The Academic Success Committee, charged by the Dean of the Faculty to help define the role of faculty academic advisers at Reed College, offers this set of core responsibilities of faculty advisers, as well as expectations for student advisees.

Adviser responsibilities
1. Advise students as they plan their academic schedules each semester and provide SOLAR PINs
2. Provide guidance on how to fulfill requirements for graduation
    a. Assist with declaration of major forms
    b. Discuss junior qual expectations
    c. Provide access to grades when requested
3. Discuss advisees’ academic interests and their alignment with Reed departments and programs (possible majors and minors, study abroad and/or international experience)
4. Help to identify resources regarding life after Reed (jobs, graduate programs, etc.)
5. Support students experiencing academic difficulty
    a. Follow up with students who receive concerning 4- and 8-week comments
    b. Develop a progress plan for students on academic probation
6. Work with advisees who request exceptions to academic policy
7. Offer guidance on options and resources for students considering leaves, withdrawals, and underloads
8. Maintain timely communication with advisees (including responding within 1-2 business days)

Advisee expectations
1. Respond to communications in a timely manner (within 1-2 business days)
2. Share academic interests and goals
3. Familiarize self with College and major requirements
4. Track academic calendar and deadlines
5. Proactively communicate with faculty adviser and articulate needs

The above items constitute a set of core responsibilities and expectations that many advising relationships may exceed. For a more complete list of advising activities, see
The Student Hub can help advisees and advisers navigate resources at Reed:

Table of Contents

General Responsibilities

For those interested in a deep dive into the role of adviser, the following is offered.

1. Establish on-going individual relationships and be available to your advisees. Advisers should be aware that one of the most compelling reasons drawing a student back to the college year after year is the knowledge that a concerned faculty member has taken a personal interest in that student's progress. Learn the names of each of your advisees and become familiar with their personal and academic interests. Communicate a genuine interest in their academic goals. Tell them a little about your background and explain your role as faculty adviser.

It is recommended that you meet with each of your advisees as needed. However, there are particular cases in which you may need to spend more time with individual students, including connecting with them via email. Advisees who are uncertain of their choice of major may need more of your time than those who are sure of their direction. Students experiencing academic or personal difficulties may also need a greater amount of assistance.

Post and keep regular weekly office hours on campus. Let your advisees know the best way (or ways) to reach you when they have concerns or questions.

Just like the rest of us, students need positive reinforcement about their work. This is all the more important at Reed because students do not have the automatic satisfaction of knowing their grades. Be familiar with your advisee's academic performance and provide praise and encouragement.

Assist students in planning their academic programs, paying special attention to college, divisional, and departmental requirements.

Encourage the student to develop a preliminary plan for their academic program and then make adjustments as necessary. You may find it helpful to use one or more of: ATLAS, Advising Worksheet, Four Year Program Plan and the Major Planner (see appendices) in constructing this plan.

2. Be present during registration periods, or make arrangements in advance for a substitute to talk with your advisees.  Keep a copy of the Catalog, Adviser Handbook, Faculty Code, and the Handbook for Majors in your department, in your office, or accessible online. You can see the Schedule of Classes online at Bookmark IRIS at so you can look up information on your advisees. You can track their registration activity in IRIS, and their progress toward graduation in ATLAS. Make sure your advisees know how to use the resources available to them (e.g. the Catalog, the Guidebook to Reed, and IRIS).

Do not allow a weak student to sign up for a heavy program. A 4.5-unit semester program is only for the exceptionally able student. Students requesting more than 4.5 units (an overload) must have the approval of the Administration Committee. Students with documented disabilities may be eligible (by petition) for a reduced load.

If your advisee is in doubt about a course (content, credit, special permission, work load, prerequisites, etc.) refer the student to the instructor for specific information.

3. Be knowledgeable about College policies and procedures and communicate these to your advisees. Understand the process of petitioning for exceptions to policy. Refer to the Catalog, Adviser's Handbook, and Faculty Code as applicable. Encourage your students to refer to the Catalog and to the Guidebook to Reed.

A petition worth signing is worth considering carefully. It’s best if you don't sign it in the hall, in passing, or if it is left tacked to your door. Take the time to talk with the student about it. If you are not supportive, but respect the student’s right to petition, mark the box "for discussion."

Many students decide to take a leave of absence during their time at Reed. This process entails an online form, requiring your approval. When a student comes to you to talk about taking a leave, or you receive word they have applied for a leave, make sure that you have discussed the academic implications of taking a leave (i.e., course sequencing, timing of the Qual, etc.). Explain to students that if they take courses elsewhere, they should seek approval for those before enrolling at another school. Refer them to the registrar's office to obtain a Request for Transfer Credit form if they plan to take courses while they are away.

4. Provide assistance and referral to students experiencing difficulty.  Be knowledgeable about College resources and understand your own responsibilities and limits. Comment forms are an important source of information for you and your students. Make sure you read the comment forms for your advisees at each grading cycle and address any concerns that are noted.

Meet regularly with students on academic probation. If students miss appointments, send reminder notes; don't just let it slide. If an advisee repeatedly fails to appear when scheduled, or is not attending classes, notify Student Life.

Don't hesitate to refer students to campus resources. Student Life offers medical assistance, psychological counseling, tutoring, services for students with learning disabilities, assistance with study skills, organization and motivation, and career counseling. Information about residence life, inclusive community, and student activities is also available. You may also refer students to th e different academic support centers (see, and the offices of the Registrar, Business, Financial Aid, and International Programs.

The deans in Student Life are available to support academic advising. Please contact a dean at x7521 if an advisee fails to see you, if you'd like consultation about a situation, or if an advisee appears to need help in nonacademic areas.

Do not think that you have to handle what may seem to be serious psychological problems. Call or refer the student to the Health and Counseling Center. Professional counselors are employed to assist students, and this service is free. It is helpful if you advise Student Life when you make such a recommendation. Forewarning of a possible problem is often useful.

Note: Advisees are not assigned to a faculty member who is in the first year of teaching at Reed (except in History and Social Sciences where the thesis adviser also serves as the academic adviser). You should not accept advisees in your first year even if asked by a student. We hope this delay will give you time to learn more about Reed’s curriculum, the advising role, and the reasons for the various curricular policies and practices.

Guidelines for Advising New Students

Showing a personal interest in the student will help initiate a good advising relationship. Read the material in the student’s advising file (see “documents” in Student Information in IRIS) before your first meeting. These documents can provide you with information about the incoming student: past academic record, areas for potential concern, tentative choices of major, academic goals, special talents, disabilities, and the student's expectations for the advising relationship. The advising file does not contain confidential material such as teacher recommendations. Certain information such as Reed’s admission evaluation is destroyed when the student matriculates.

  1. Spend some time discussing issues of adjustment to Reed academic life: the differences between high school and college; expectations of faculty; successful conference participation; study skills; and grading policy. For instance, students are expected to be independent and responsible for their own learning but students also should seek out instructors when they have questions or problems with a course.
  2. Many first-year students are unfamiliar with the process of undergraduate academic advising. You and your advisee should discuss your mutual expectations of the advising relationship. It is important that you be as specific as possible regarding your role, including what you are able and willing to provide. All first-year students are expected to see their advisers a minimum of twice each semester. Many advisers try to see new students more frequently during the first semester. It is usually helpful if you initiate contact with the student.
  3. Assume that first-year major choices are tentative. Students should seek a program that balances types of courses, electives, and requirements. Advisees who have any interest in pursuing a math or science major should begin the course sequences in the first year. The sequential nature of the science curriculum allows more room in the junior and senior years for non-science courses, while in the humanities and social sciences there is more opportunity for electives in the first and second years.
  4. Many new students assume they can take five or six academic courses as they did in high school. Students who have a good academic experience in their first year are much more likely to be successful and to remain at Reed. A heavy course load can interfere with a satisfying academic introduction to college. First-year students typically start with Humanities 110 and two other courses. Some add a .5 unit course in applied music, dance, or theatre. Suggest to students that they can increase their academic load in the second semester after a successful first semester schedule of 3.5 or 4 units. Any new student expecting to carry 4.5 units should present an exceptionally strong record and also express a strong desire to carry an especially heavy course load. Without these indicators, students should not be advised to take a heavy schedule.
  5. Unlike life outside the classroom, Reed academics involve detailed requirements and expectations. Make sure students understand the general college distribution requirements and deadlines for adding and dropping courses. Students also need to know that they are responsible for completing the paperwork for course changes and petitions and that the faculty is serious about deadlines. Late requests are not automatically granted. Students don't always understand the consequences of failing to do "the paperwork" (i.e. a transcript showing a grade of 'F' in a course they stopped attending but failed to drop).
  6. For transfer students, it is particularly important to assist your advisee in establishing a plan for the remainder of the academic program. Use ATLAS as a framework to plan the completion of all remaining requirements, paying particular attention to residency requirements. The margin of error is much less in designing a program for a student who enters Reed in the second or third year. When in doubt, consult with the Office of the Registrar and with faculty colleagues.

Planning an Academic Program

There are several important factors to keep in mind when advising a student regarding an academic schedule for a semester or a year. It is important that both of you view the plan as an integral part of a four- (or perhaps five) year academic plan. Course scheduling is most successful in the context of a plan for each individual student. The development and implementation of such a plan is an essential goal of advising students. One of the common reasons students encounter difficulty meeting requirements in a timely manner is that they have not planned their coursework carefully within the framework of overall college requirements. Academic plans must incorporate department, division, and general college requirements. In planning the student's educational program, consideration must be given to course sequencing and prerequisites.

Frequently, students experience indecision when it comes time to choose a major. Particularly in the first three semesters, students should choose courses which both allow them to pursue their interests and provide them with the greatest number of options in the future. Quite often, first year major choices are tentative. Students should seek a program that balances types of courses, electives, and requirements. It is also important to consider a balance of semester and year-long courses. It can be difficult for a student to be locked in to all year- long courses if interests change.

Although it may be difficult for some students to do this, it is helpful even in the first year to develop a proposed four-year schedule and adjust it each semester as necessary. Use the Four-Year Program Plan, the Advising Worksheet and the individual major planners to develop a tentative plan and to assure that all requirements will be met. It is very important to remember that a change of major may result in changes affecting the distribution and division requirements as well.

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