Carnegie Mellon Engineering

Guidance for Advising Students

The National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) has published the following standards and guidelines for academic advising:

  • The primary purpose of an academic advising program is to assist students in the development of meaningful educational plans that are compatible with their life goals and is a continuous process of clarification and evaluation.

  • The ultimate responsibility for making informed decisions about life goals and educational plans rests with the individual student. The academic advisor assists by helping to identify and assess alternatives and consequences of decisions.

  • An academic advisor acts as key resource for students regarding academic services and advice on academic career, a field of study, course scheduling and program requirements.

Visit the Carnegie Mellon Advising Resource Center for additional information. For more academic advising resources, you can also go to the NACADA website.


A good academic advisor:

  • Knows and can explain the requirements for a specific academic program

  • Addresses a student by name and maintains comfortable eye contact

  • Cares about, has a genuine interest in, and concern for a student as an individual

  • Gets to know each advisee's strengthens and weaknesses

  • Encourages a student to talk during an advising session by asking questions that seek information (closed-ended) and those that build a relationship (open-ended)

  • Establishes and abides by an office schedule for meeting with students

  • Recognizes and responds to the different needs of students as they advance in their academic program, from class registration to graduate school admissions

  • Establishes an open line of communication with students, through traditional one-on-one advising, along with availability to answer questions via e-mail

  • Makes advising an individual experience and doesn’t mass advise students through e-mail or mailings

  • Keep notes regarding student meetings

  • Pays attention to a student's non-verbal communication (Examples: tone of voice, posture, expression, eye contact)

  • Clarifies what you believe the student is saying to avoid misinterpreting (Examples: "It seems you're feeling...", "I get the impression that...", and "If I understand you...")

  • Ensures students take challenging, yet balanced, course loads by comparing past course loads and academic record

  • Encourages advisees to become well-rounded students by getting involved in campus and community activities, organizations, research projects, community service, work study, and/or internships

  • Reinforces the purpose and relevance of general education as integral component to a student's college experience

  • Empowers students to be successful by offering encouragement

  • Helps students establish a well-defined plan for future

  • Is sensitive and tactful when discussing potentially negative information

  • Affirms the students’ responsibility for knowing and following the institution’s requirements and determining their own direction and goals

  • Assists students in exploring and examining major fields of study and career options based on interests, aptitudes, and skills

  • Provides accurate information on academic policies and procedures

  • Is familiar with the laws that govern student record such as FERPA

  • Has the ability and knowledge to make referrals to appropriate Carnegie Mellon student support services