Baylor University
Student Activities
Student Organizations


Advising Tips

Advisors for student organizations have three main functions:

1. To help with the growth and development of students.

2. To add to the continuity of the group as members graduate.

3. To assist in the area of program content and purpose.

Advisor roles may differ depending on the student organization, but the role is always an important one. Some advisors play very active roles, attending meetings, working with student officers, and assisting in program planning and development. Others maintain a more distant relationship with the organization. It is our hope that as an advisor you will maintain regular contact with the organization. An advisor accepts responsibility for remaining informed about the activities of the organization and for advising officers of the organization on the appropriateness and general merits of policies and activities. It is helpful for advisors to be both accessible and interested and provide whatever counsel a group or its members might seek.

Several factors determine the nature of the advisor's role, such as the effectiveness of organization members, organization activities, and the availability of the advisor. However, advisors are encouraged to avoid being only a signature on registration forms. Most advisors have significant knowledge and experience that can be applied to student organization goal-setting, conflict resolution, and group effectiveness. It is often the advisor that maintains the continuity of the organization and helps it grow. In short, a good advisor helps nurture an organization's success.

The following is adapted from Lenoir-Rhyne College's Advisor Handbook:
• In the beginning of the advising relationship, agree on clear expectations about the role of the advisor and the role of the student organization. Discuss philosophies and reach a consensus.

• Read the constitution of the group, get to know the members, attend events, and generally make yourself seen so that they know who you are.

• Assist in the establishment of responsibilities for each officer and member.

• Develop a strong relationship with the president or chairperson and other officers. This is key because these students will be your main contact with the group.

• Discuss concerns with an officer's performance in a one-on-one setting. Whenever someone does something extremely well, be sure to let others know.

• Maintain a sense of humor it's college, not rocket science.

• Be honest and open with all communication. The students need to feel that you are just in your dealings with them.

• Realize that you have the power of persuasion, but use this judiciously. The students sometimes need to learn how to fail.

• Help them see alternatives and provide an outside perspective.

• Remember: praise in public, criticize in private.

• Find a balance between being the strict naysayer and the laissez-faire friend. The students must feel that you are supportive of them and yet that you will hold them accountable.


Given the myriad of purposes, activities, and objectives of various student groups, the role of the advisor will vary to some degree between groups. As organizations vary in their expectations and needs, it is important that you, as an advisor, develop an understanding with the organization you are to represent as to the nature of your involvement. The advisor and group should agree on a set of expectations of one another from the onset.

Some initial questions you may consider asking your organization each year/semester:

• How much involvement is expected or needed?

• How often does the group meet?

• How many major activities does the group plan per semester?

• How experienced are the student leaders?

• How do your skills match the needs of the organization?

• What are some of the problem areas that your organization specifically needs advisory assistance in dealing with? Ask for past examples.

• What are some of the ways the advisor can be more helpful to the group?

• Will the advisor be a silent observer at meetings or an active participant?

• Should you interrupt during meetings if you think the group is getting off track? How? When?

• If things get unruly, should you interrupt or remain silent?

• Is the advisor expected to give feedback? How? When?

• Are there areas of the organization that are "hands off" to the advisor?

• Does the national organization (if applicable) require an affiliated advisor? If so, what is their role?