Student Advising Principles and Guidance

Excellent student advising is important to a meaningful and successful educational experience at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Given the diversity of needs among students, including master’s- and doctoral-level students, departments and academic programs are best positioned to determine how to provide advising aligned with School-wide principles and values, and the needs of students in its various academic degrees.

School-wide principles for advising students:

  • Create a culture of care: Foster a School, departmental, and program culture that values, fosters, and recognizes excellent advising
  • Communicate: Ensure that academic advisers and students are well informed about advising policies and practices
  • Clear expectations: Develop clear expectations, materials, and other structures and resources to support academic advising
  • Assess: Develop mechanisms to assess the quality of advising and provide support for improvement

The roles of departments and programs

Departments and programs can demonstrate their commitment to excellent advising by:

  • Developing clear policies, practices, and resources for academic advising that are readily available to students and advisers (e.g. in department and program handbooks, on web pages)
  • Discussing academic advising in new student orientation sessions
  • Making academic advising a part of the onboarding process for new faculty
  • Ensuring annual reviews of departmental advising using data and recognizing excellent academic advisers (e.g. at faculty meetings, in department communications, through individual communications by senior leaders)
  • Collaborating with School-wide units that include the Office of Education, the Office of Student Services, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and other resources to ensure an understanding of School- and University-wide resources

The role of academic advisers

The best academic advisers engage in a number of behaviors and practices that make their advisees feel valued, seen, and supported.  These include:

  • Being welcoming: The best advisers demonstrate respect, care, and empathy for students as they navigate their academic program and pursue professional goals. Advisers understand that each graduate advisee brings diverse perspectives, experiences, and interests to the relationship.
  • Being available: Being accessible to students is key to being a good adviser. Academic advisers are required to meet with students at least twice a year (in the fall and spring semesters before the add-drop period), so reaching out to your advisees at these times is important. However, making sure your advisees know that you are available at other times—and how they can schedule meetings with you—is a key part of being a good adviser.
  • Being knowledgeable: An adviser should be knowledgeable about the degree requirements for their advisees and be able to provide support to students in developing their academic plan of study. They should be able to assist students in navigating School administrative and procedural issues and appropriately refer students to School-wide resources.
  • Being a connector: A key role of an academic adviser is to help advisees connect with other people at the School, University, and within your professional network, and to refer students to resources for academic and personal challenges. Reference the adviser resources card to point your student in the right direction.

The role of students

The relationship you have with your academic adviser may (or may not!) be one of the most important and meaningful ones you develop during your time at Harvard Chan School. Regardless of the connections you make, establishing and maintaining a good relationship with your academic adviser can be very helpful as you navigate your degree program.

How to make the most of the relationship with your academic adviser:

  • Understand and respect that each adviser brings different perspectives, experiences, strengths, and interests to the advising relationship
  • Be proactive in communicating with your adviser and attend all meetings with an agenda of topics and questions to discuss related to your academic and professional goals
  • Meet regularly with your adviser, at least once each term, to review your progress and discuss the ways in which your adviser can assist in exploring and evaluating your academic progress, goals, and future plans (examples might include reviewing courses, gaining relevant teaching or research experience, or finding peer/professional mentors)
  • Follow through with referrals that are made on your behalf by your adviser and circle back to keep your adviser updated
  • Reach out to others at the school for guidance and advice: Your academic adviser is just one resource among many at Harvard Chan School

Some other key resources and supports include: