​​Most college students juggle a lot: studying, getting to and from class, and, for many at the CSU, working and meeting other obligations. So it can feel like the last straw to hear that you should find and check in with an academic advisor regularly.

But if you take the time to seek out someone to guide you in choosing courses and ensure you're on the path to graduate according to your goals, you'll be likelier to earn your degree in less time, saving money and launching you into your career sooner.

That's why many California State University campuses have put in place easy-to-access, interactive programs designed to make advising much simpler. Even better, many are customized to meet the specific needs and academic goals of each student. (Some CSU campuses are in the planning stages of adding these resources, so they may not have made it just yet to your school.)

The advancements are tied to the CSU's Graduation Initiative 2025, which focuses on increasing graduation rates for all students while eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps.

What is 'Intensive Advising'?

Referred to as "intensive advising," students and their advisors — which now includes faculty, staff and peer mentors on many campuses, as well as formal academic advisors — work together to form a powerful partnership.

"[Intensive advising] involves intentional, one-on-one contact with students," explains ​Karen R. Moranski, Ph.D., associate vice president for Academic Programs at Sonoma State University.

"Its goal is to create a positive relationship with an advisor that leads to increased academic success and persistence. It is also preventative, in that it anticipates issues that may keep students from graduating." 

In specific, advisors and student success centers on the campuses work closely with each student to set goals, evaluate progress over time and ensure the goals are being met or intervening to offer support if they're not.

Ideally, the partnership of student and advisor begins as soon as a student arrives on campus, whether as a first-time freshman or a transfer student from a community college or another university.

Online dashboards and planners will also help students stay accountable for their own success.

"The development and usage of these technology-based advising tools have brought a culture shift in both the advising and student communities," says S. Terri Gomez, Ph.D, interim associate vice president for Student Success at Cal Poly Pomona. She adds that advisors use data to refine how best to work with students, while students can easily access and use the technologies, making it simple to integrate academic tracking into their busy schedules.

The Link to Student Success

When academic advisors leverage technology and students find it easy to use, the benefits can be significant, according to early findings from CSU campuses.

Here are three specific ways having an advisor (or an advising team) to guide students in planning classes, finding tutoring or other help when necessary, and learning how to better track their progress could be a game-changer for increasing graduation rates. Most CSU campuses have developed specific advising programs aimed at helping students navigate college. Below are just a few examples of some of the programs available.

  • ​Students are aware of how they're tracking toward graduation 24/7. Online advising resources allow students to access their profile whenever and wherever they want, so they can always check their progress toward their degree, plan course schedules in advance, and enroll in classes. Sonoma State, for example, launched the Seawolf Scheduler and Degree Planner as part of its E-Advising Initiative. Cal Poly Pomona recently invested in redesigning its student success dashboards with Tableau, an accessible, responsive data analysis and visualization tool that's part of its MyPlanner student success portal. And CSU East Bay has introduced The Bay Advisor.

    Dynamic, live tracking systems and dashboards allow faculty, administrators and advisors not only to see how their students are doing, but the data collected will make it easier to predict how successful these "intrusive" advising strategies really are in keeping students on the road to picking up their degree.

  • Struggling students are caught earlier. Early alert systems, which will be implemented on CSU campuses such as Cal Poly Pomona, CSU East Bay,  CSU Fullerton, and CSU San Bernardino, are able to identify students who are having trouble academically, who haven't signed up for classes, or who show signs of academic setback, such as low grades or poor class attendance. 

    Retention specialists — staff who help ensure students stay enrolled and moving toward their degree — are being added to teams throughout the CSU to identify and assist students at risk of dropping out of college. Other campuses require students to provide detailed plans of their coursework schedule as they near graduation. 

    A student doesn't need to be at risk of failing or dropping out, though, for an advising team to get an alert. An advisor might simply contact a student approaching graduation to assist and eliminate obstacles as early as possible.

  • Advisors create a personalized plan for every student. No two students' college experiences are the same. That's why a number of CSU campuses have implemented "student success teams" that provide a tailored advising experience. 

    The teams are made up of academic, peer, and professional advisors, along with career services counselors and graduation and retention specialists. Students who haven't declared their major may be required by some campuses to enroll in specialized advising efforts – such as meeting regularly with advisors who track their progress – to ensure they ​aren't left behind. ​

Coming Soon at the CSU: More Advising Resources

Efforts to bolster and improve advising are ongoing across CSU campuses. Sonoma State will launch the Center for Transfer and Transition Programs in fall 2017; it will provide personalized advising, mentoring, social support, and other resources for transfer students, with the goal of eliminating the opportunity gap. 

This fall, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo's College of Engineering will launch a proactive advising model that will specifically target underrepresented, first-generation, and Pell-eligible students. The campus hopes to scale the model to all of its colleges by 2019.

These existing and forthcoming advising services encourage students to set and meet their academic goals, ensuring success throughout their time at the CSU.

Learn more about Graduation Initiative 2025 and the ways in which the CSU is working to close the equity gap for underserved students.