Pardon me, I don’t mean to Intrude

Intrusive Advising is all the rage these days. But what is it? And why should you do it?

woman writing on table
Photo by Monica Melton / Unsplash

Intrusive Advising is a proactive style of student retention. Advisors (Life Coaches) are reaching out to help at risk students. It is intrusive because students are not asking for help. You were not invited to the party, but want to hang out. It can be a tricky situation.

Who’s party do you want to crash? At risk students of course! But who are they?

First, your institution needs to define who is considered ‘at risk’. There are some at risk populations that are common sense. Students making poor grades or who stop consistently attending class are certainly at risk. There are many other at risk students that aren’t identified as easily. Think about the students who lack transportation, have a combative roommate, or are even lacking basic necessities of food or shelter.

Grades and attendance are easy to track, but students with car trouble are a whole other story. There are many ways to track and identify at risk students ranging from Data Analytics to simple mandatory questionnaires.

Life Coaches get started early in the student process. Advisors are encouraged or even required to attend orientation or Welcome Week activities. The idea is to be visible and approachable to the students. Students need to believe that the advisors care about them and are there to help. This is the start of the relationship with the student.

Initial contact with the student must be made by the Life Coach. Mandatory face to face meetings are commonly implemented to identify potential risk factors early in the process.

Social media, text messages, emails, and the occasional hallway encounter can all be used. One article I read said to try and run into the students at Walmart. I’m not suggesting anything quite that stalker level here. Without fail, the coach must continuously make contact and maintain a relationship with the student. A student’s situation can dramatically change very quickly. Contact with students should be consistent and genuine.

The tone of the Life Coach is extremely important. Be professional and approachable. The goal is to build a relationship of trust, respect, and helpfulness…but also show tough love. It is a fine line between a helicopter mom who is all up in your Cheerios and BFF who thinks you can do no wrong.

The knowledge of the Coach will make or break the trust in this relationship. The Coach must have a solid knowledge base in the school, staff, and resources. Once you know the cause of the at risk behavior, what options do you have to help the student? Are they overwhelmed in their class load? What can balance that load? Do they need better transportation? What carpool groups, public transportation, or other options are available?

If you don’t use any Intrusive Advising I suggest you start. Start somewhere, anywhere. Start with students who’s grades are slipping. See what happens. If you have been using Intrusive Advising I challenge you to look further, dig deeper. I guarantee there is a population of at risk students waiting and hoping for your help.