A Content Advisee

When I first met my advisor during one of the milling periods of freshman orientation, she greeted me by name before I even introduced myself. During my first conversation with her, she spoke with great knowledge of my academic interests and the results of my placement tests. In her first letter to my parents, accompanying my Junior Fall grades, she cited the various extracurricular experiences I had pursued that term and named a few of my friends. Andover’s current advising system is smart; assuming the role of surrogate parent to nearly 1,100 adolescents, the administration puts an adult on campus in charge of each student’s whole person. The advisor’s role therefore, is multifaceted; my advisor got to know me not only as a student, but also became familiar with my character and interests. As apparent in just my first term at Andover, she knew from where I came, she was aware of my activities and strengths and she kept tabs on my life on campus – both social and extracurricular. As a student performs in Andover’s multiple realms, he or she connects with faculty members in each: in athletics, it can be a coach; in the dorm, a house counselor. An advisor is the one adult who is familiar with every part of the student. Indeed, it is with this very expertise in the whole person that the advisor crucially serves as both counselor and advocate. Academically, the advisor is a resource in decoding the course selection process and graduation requirements. He or she can recommend certain classes and teachers from the unique vantage point of a faculty member. My own advisor has helped me maneuver around science and math courses without harming my transcript, and has ensured that my course load is manageable with consideration for the rest of my activities. Socially, the relationship between advisor and student is close to that of a guidance counselor. Inevitably, some relationships will be closer than others, as pairings are, essentially, random. However, the social and personal responsibilities of the advisor ensure that each student has meaningful contact with an adult on campus on a regular basis. This means that at least one adult is aware of a student’s activity on campus – his or her successes, failings and overall wellbeing. At the bare minimum, the advisor is an adult who knows the student well enough to represent them accurately should the student’s actions come into question. An advisor’s presence at Disciplinary Committee meetings enforces this point. Advisors can serve as liaisons between students and teachers, students and the administration and, when necessary, parents and the Academy. There are unofficial benefits to the advising system that are rarely recognized. At Andover, we are fortunate to have a faculty of extremely intelligent and eager instructors, and the advising system establishes a means for connecting with an adult on this campus outside of classes and athletics. The meetings with my advisor, either with the rest of our group or individually, are absolutely of mutual exchange, and over the past four years I am confident that I have learned as much from her as I have from my academic teachers. For day students, the advising group is a guaranteed association with the school, again outside of classes and athletics. This connection, found for boarders mostly in their dorm life, is critical considering the sense of community Andover attempts to foster. At this fall’s Student Congress, a discussion group was dedicated to the advising system. Many of us shared individual experiences, exemplifying both positive and negative aspects of the program’s current structure, but it quickly became clear that, in many respects, we were comparing apples and oranges. There are inevitable discrepancies among both student and advisor encounters with the advising system, as there would be with any program, but they are typically only a reflection of the student or faculty member as individuals. Though some consider this a flaw in the advising system, its relative lack of regularity across all students and advisors, any more uniformity in the advisor-advisee relationship would not allow the necessary and organic bonding between a faculty member and a student that the current system so wonderfully features. Yes, Andover’s advising system is smart. Its shortcomings are due to a lack of student and advisor investment in the current system, not the program itself. The structure is there for efficient, constructive and valuable partnerships among PA students and faculty members to achieve both guidance through Andover academics and a connection between two citizens of this campus.