It takes a number of entities and departments working in concert for a college or university to fulfill its primary purpose — educating students. Outside of teaching and research, a number of career roles in higher education focus on the success and welfare of students, offering frequent and significant interactions with them. Here is information on three such roles.
Academic Advisor – A Student's Best Resource for Academic Success
As an academic advisor, you will be in a position to get to know the whole student: their aspirations, challenges, abilities and talents, and educational experience.
As an ally throughout a student's college career, an academic advisor typically:
- Provides advising support to help students identify their academic interests, connect to resources for additional information, and devise study plans that fit their educational goals. Being available through in-person or virtual office hours is important for success in this student-facing role.
- Connects students to appropriate resources for academic and career development. Being plugged into the university community (both virtual and on-campus) and the world beyond is a way to become a repository of useful information.
- Celebrates the successes of students and helps them make good decisions. Setting a positive tone for the relationship can pave the way for more difficult conversations around academic issues.
According to EAB (formerly Education Advisory Board), "Students who develop a relationship with a campus advisor are more likely to persist and graduate from college than students who don't." For many low-income students, academic advising plays a crucial role in degree completion, the EAB article suggests.
Financial Aid Officer – A Student's Link to an Affordable Education
Understanding the complexities of financial aid, being detail-oriented and taking time to listen to students are all in a day's work for administrators in this position.
As a financial aid officer, you will be involved in at least three different phases of students' post-secondary education.
- During application for admission. Students often apply for enrollment and financial aid at the same time. They may be anxious or ill-informed, and it will be your job to provide accurate information and answer their questions.
- After acceptance. Upon a student's acceptance into the school, you will follow up with financial aid decision-makers, verifying that applications are in order and complete. Prepare to answer questions and assist with appeals from students when they are awarded financial aid or receive rejection letters.
- While in the degree program. When students start classes, it may fall to you to help them meet deadlines for future applications, find appropriate work/study opportunities and understand how changes in the law and process might affect future financial awards.
Career Services Officer – A Student's Guide to the Future
As a career services officer at a college or university, you'll have the opportunity to shape career-readiness programs. For example, you may:
- Advocate for career-development resources. These include job recruitment portals for graduating seniors and career-based opportunities for students in undergraduate classes.
- Secure financial support for students who may benefit from an unpaid internship but depend on working hours to pay for school expenses, for example.
- Encourage students to get involved with their field of choice through novel methods, like co-op programs.
- Make the career services office a welcoming place for students by offering flexible hours and community activities.
Some higher education institutions are proactive in helping students with career development. "Many are revamping career services programs and curricula, offering help and money for internships or hands-on projects, and integrating job prep even in the first year," notes U.S. News & World Report contributor Mariya Greeley.
Preparing for a Higher Education Career With a Focus on Students
All three of the above higher education administrative positions aim to help students succeed. To better prepare for the challenges inherent in these roles, consider earning a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration with a concentration in Leadership Studies online from William Paterson University. By completing the program, which includes courses like Higher Education as a Profession and Finance in Higher Education, you can equip yourself to make a difference in the lives of the students you serve.
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