You have /5 articles left.
Sign up for a free account or log in.

The Ideal Student Journey To and Through College map provides an outline of how advisers can support students.

Advising Success Network

No two students’ academic journeys are the same, but the Advising Success Networks’ Student Journey Map gives a glimpse into the student experience in preparing and planning for success.

Three of ASN’s student fellows recently developed the map, calling on their own experiences as students at various institutions across the U.S. and collaborating with undergraduate and graduate students.

The map can serve as an accountability tool for institutions as well as a resource for students, explains George Mason University student Ariel Ventura-Lazo, one of the ASN student fellows who developed the map.

“For the students, it’s good to know what we have ahead of us,” Ventura-Lazo explains. “I’m a visual person—I need to see what is left in order for me to reach that finish line … to feel motivated to just keep going and not feel lost.”

A hard look in the mirror: The Student Journey Map is a resource for advisers at colleges and universities that comes from a critical perspective on the current state of advising, ASN student fellow Renee Rivera Restivo says.

During her academic career, Rivera Restivo says she’s found advisers have high levels of responsibility but are not always helpful. Rivera Restivo is working on her associate’s degree at Northwestern Connecticut Community College and feels advising resources neglect nontraditional students, like herself.

“A lot of times, when you’re going to college, you think of a college student as an 18-year-old, straight out of high school, and that’s not [always] true,” she says, emphasizing the need for equity in advising resources for all kinds of students.

Navigating the map: Callan Drake, an ASN student fellow at Northern Arizona University, along with peers Rivera Restiva and Ventura-Lazo, organized the map into columns, identifying stages in academic development and six steps involved at each phase.

One example is college registration, which the fellows dissected into the ideal experience, possible interactions with an adviser, the ideal use of technology during the phase and the institution’s responsibility. Also included are a student’s testimonial quote and two possibilities of a student’s emotional journey: the expected emotion and the reality.

For class registration, the fellows said the expected emotions are “empowered” and “supported,” but the reality is students are confused and ready.

The emotion “confused” appears four times in the 13 phases of the map, and “scared” appears three times, often antonyms to the expected emotions—“confident,” “supported” or “proud.”

In Rivera Restivo’s first classes, she remembers feeling nervousness, intimidation and overwhelmed as she thought, “I’ll never be able to do this—what did I just do to myself?” It wasn’t just that she felt out of her element—Rivera Restivo thought her college had set her up for failure.

Along the student’s journey, the fellows suggest ways for technology to be implemented and provide a framework for how an institution can support the advising experience, like creating automation or promoting student engagement.

Creating transparent communication: A common frustration among college students is a lack of communication from their institution, creating a responsibility to equip themselves for success.

“If I’m paying for my education, I shouldn’t have to go and research things that I should already know,” Rivera Restivo says. Rivera Restivo is waiting to receive certifications she’s earned because she was not informed of the requirement to apply for graduation, she says.

Too often communication comes at unfortunate times, like when a student is on academic warnings, or there is a lack of clarity on finances in general, Ventura-Lazo says.

“To this day, what the true price of college actually is … I’m still thinking about that,” he says.

On their map, the student fellows emphasize communication throughout in the section “Ongoing Coordinated Culture of Care.” With more coordination from their institution, students should be aware of class requirements, how to register for courses and matched with an academic mentor or major-specific adviser.

In plain English: Jargon in academic advising is a significant barrier for first-generation students, the student fellows share.

“I know for me, when I first started college, I didn’t know the difference between A.S. degree, B.S., master’s—I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know what a TA was,” Ventura-Lazo explains. “It’s not so straightforward … how [staff] think it is.”

Rivera Restivo equates her college experience as speaking another language and living in another world with a new culture.

The Student Journey Map suggests familiarization with college culture and “jargon 101” in the orientation stage, prior to college registration, so students can understand their courses better and while attending orientation and meeting faculty and advisers.

It takes a village: Creating an advising office that can offer holistic services and support students in their own definitions of success is also a priority in the Student Journey Map.

“It shouldn’t just fall on the adviser—it’s a whole institutional thing that we all need to be on the same page,” Ventura-Lazo says.

The student fellows encourage institutions to build trust with their student populations, understanding how different populations—first-generation, veteran, unhoused and foster care students, for example—need different services than their peers.

“I’m a former teen father, Latino/Hispanic, come from low income, first generation. I fit a lot of those demographics. I can vouch firsthand with that level of [dis]trust,” Ventura-Lazo says. ”We’re not gonna be willing to open up to just anybody at all, or just the next person that thinks I’m just another number at the institution.”

Instead, institutions must recognize the unique challenges that come with being a minority student and establish training for advisers to work with marginalized students.

“It’s going to take the entire college to help the student and to just be like, ‘Oh, the adviser has to do this,’ and then that’s it, that’s not OK,” Rivera Restivo says.

Subscribe to the Student Success newsletter for more content like this.

Next Story

More from Academic Life