Editor's note: This is a revision of a Mentor article first published in May 1999.

American Education before Academic Advising was Defined

17th and 18th Centuries

Colonial: The president of the college, and later the faculty, were responsible for advising students regarding their extracurricular activities, their moral life, and intellectual habits. They acted in loco parentis.

19th Century

Late 1820s: Kenyon College (OH) introduced the first known formal system of advising. Each student was teamed with a faculty member who served as the student's adviser.

Academic Advising as a Defined and Unexamined Activity

Table 1: Chronology of advising in history.
1870 Ephraim Gurney was appointed as the first dean at Harvard responsible for taking the burden of student discipline off of President Eliot's hands.
1876/1877 First system of faculty advisers was set up at Johns Hopkins. President Daniel Coit Gilman credited classicist Charles D'Urban Morris with the idea.
By 1882Increasing numbers of matrons, lady assistants, and lady principals succeeded in overseeing coeducational environments. They could be considered the forerunners of advisers.
1888Boston University offered the (supposedly) first freshman seminar for which the focus was extended orientation to college (Lee College in Kentucky may have had one in 1882).
1889Edward Herrick Griffin (professor of the history of philosophy) was appointed chief of faculty advisers at Johns Hopkins. His principal function was to be a moral and intellectual force among the undergraduates.
1889/1890Harvard created a special counseling group called the Board of Freshman Advisers to advise first-year students.
1890Harvard appointed LeBaron Russell Briggs (professor of English) as dean to perform advising as well as disciplinary duties. This appointment divided the deanship and its labor between the academic dean and a dean of students.
1891LeBaron Russell Briggs of Harvard incorporated an orientation component into his freshman English course.
1892William Rainey Harper of the University of Chicago appointed Alice Freeman Palmer (also professor of history) dean of women.
1895Marion Talbot replaced Palmer as dean of women at the University of Chicago. She was the first full-time dean of women. (There is some evidence that Swarthmore appointed Elizabeth Powell Bond as a matron in 1886 and gave her the title of dean in 1890.)
1899William Rainey Harper (1905) of the University of Chicago predicted that the scientific study of the student would be of great importance in 20th century education. This kind of study could ensure that each student received the assistance necessary for his or her success.

20th Century


As the breadth and complexity of the curricula increased, the need for specialization and extended counseling became more critical. It is here that we see the beginnings of the specialization of advising into at least three types:

  1. Personal: (Psychological) - From the Mental Hygiene Movement
  2. Vocational: (Career) - From the Vocational Guidance Model
  3. Academic Advising

There was considerable overlap between these functions in the early to mid-20th century.

Early to mid 20th century advising transition
1900At the beginning of the 20th century, the title “dean of women” evolved. These women were charged with handling discipline, extracurricular activities, and resolution of academic problems. The title “dean of men” is also said to have begun at approximately this time.
1906At Columbia and other universities, the fad of the moment was to establish an adviser system for supervising the selection of classes and to help bridge the ever-widening gap in student/faculty relations.
1915-16Brown University inaugurated orientation lectures that provided students with the scope and aims of college education.
1916-17Oberlin College introduced a course that was designed to provide students with career information.
Post WWICounselors were trained to complement faculty advising. The psychological and vocational needs of veterans were addressed using modern psychometric instruments.
1919Columbia University's course “Introduction to Contemporary Civilization” was one of the most comprehensive courses offered in American colleges and an early example of an orientation course organized within the curriculum. The University of Minnesota's “Orientation Course” and Dartmouth's “Evolution” were other examples of orientation courses organized within the curriculum.
1920sAccording to Frederick Rudolph (1962), “most colleges and universities were busy perfecting various systems of freshman counseling, freshman week, faculty advisers, and before long the campus psychologist as well as the college chaplain would join these many agencies in giving organized expression to a purpose that had once been served most simply by dedicated faculty” (p. 460).

The University of Maine held the first distinctly Freshman Week in American colleges.

The University of Minnesota recommended that faculty advisers should be chosen from among persons who were “completely willing to inform themselves in all matters pertaining to complicated problems of educational and vocational advisement . . .” (Doermann, 1926, p. 83). The principle breakdown of the faculty adviser system was seen as the inability of the average faculty member to perform the duties of a counselor, particularly when the assignment was superimposed upon a full teaching load.

1924Smith College set up a system using upper division students as advisers.
1928The Association of American Colleges reported that 60 percent of the colleges it surveyed had some form of freshman orientation.
1930sThe term “student personnel work” began appearing in higher education practice. This work, which included educational guidance and psychological and vocational counseling, was largely undefined at this time.
Post WWIIThere was an overwhelming embarrassment of curricular riches that made it difficult for a student to choose courses. Specially trained professionals were needed to help students through the maze of course selection based on the individual's unique intellectual, personal, and social make up. Specially trained professionals were also needed to address the needs of the WWII veterans who would be attending college in great numbers under the G.I. Bill.
1947An Alfred University committee appointed by the president recommended “that Alfred establish a personnel office to orient freshmen to the history and tradition of the university, to study methods, and to [oversee] general conduct, and [to] subscribe to the 'faith and philosophy underlying general faculty advising'” (Frost, 2000). This recommendation was an attempt to supplement rather than replace faculty in the advising process. However, then as now, academic advising was considered primarily a function of academic affairs.

Academic Advising as a Defined and Examined Activity

Academic Advising as a definied and examined activity
1960sRecord numbers of students attended college. However, it wasn't until the 1970s when falling enrollments, high attrition rates, and student demand for improved advising resulted in advising programs beginning to receive serious attention.

The findings of the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education led to its recommendation that enhanced emphasis should be placed on advising as an important aspect of higher education.

The explosion of the community college and new student populations such as more first-generation and lower-income students, underprepared students, reentry students, disabled students, and international students required individualized academic adjustment and planning. Academic advising was the vehicle for this service.

Developmental advising made its appearance with independent articles by Crookston (1972) and O'Banion (1972).

Studies began to link academic advising services to student retention.

1972University 101 for freshmen at the University of South Carolina was begun to increase student retention, promote faculty development, and humanize the university environment.
1976The first statewide California State University/University of California/Private University Academic Advising Conference was held on September 30 in Fresno, California.
1977The first national academic advising conference was held in Burlington, Vermont.
1979The National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) was established. Within its first year, NACADA had 429 members.
Late 1970sAdvising centers as a delivery system began to make their appearance, and the number of full-time professional advisers increased dramatically.

The term “academic advising” became a descriptor for the Educational Resource Information Center (ERIC).

The first issue of the NACADA Journal was published.


University 101-U was established. It incorporated academic advising to help undecided students with a more comprehensive approach to make educational and career decisions.

The California Conference of Academic Advisors (CCAA) was organized at their February 25-26 meeting in Chico.

1982The CCAA held their conference jointly with NACADA on October 10-13 in San Jose, California.
1983ACT and NACADA established a national recognition program for academic advisers and advising programs.
1986The Council for the Advancement of Standards prepared standards for academic advising that addressed such issues as mission, administration, resources, facilities, and ethics.
1987The CCAA voted to affiliate with NACADA at their November 8-10 meeting in Asilomar, California.
1990sThe new student populations of the 1970s were the regular students of the 1990s.
1998NACADA awarded its first technology award.
1999NACADA had 4,700 members.
2000NACADA had 6,165 members.

21st Century

Forces Reshaping Higher Education

The following ten forces are reshaping our country. These forces will have a great impact on all facets of society and great implications for higher education and the preparation of college graduates who will shape our future (Gordon, 1992; Dunn, 2000).

  1. The Maturation of America
    The largest growing sector is the elderly, especially those over 75.
  2. The Mosaic Society
    Our population will become increasingly diverse regarding family structure, ethnic makeup, educational levels, and age.
  3. Redefinition of Individual and Societal Roles
    Individuals will take more responsibility for their own careers rather than wait for large institutions to provide opportunities.
  4. Information-Based Economy
    Information technology will continue to change the way we communicate, work, and play.
  5. Globalization
    The need for understanding and tolerance of different cultures will continue to increase.
  6. Personal and Environmental Health
    Health costs will continue to rise, and consumers will be expected to bear a greater share of their own health care costs.
  7. Economic Restructuring
    Small firms are being created in record numbers. Women, minorities, and immigrants are expected to account for over 80 percent of the net addition to the work force.
  8. Family and Home Redefined
    Many functions once performed by the family, such as food preparation and child care, are increasingly offered by commercial concerns. People work and play and shop and bank from home. There are more single-person households, single-parent households, and two-income families.
  9. Rebirth of Social Activism
    Coalitions of business, government, education, and the nonprofit sector will address social problems seen beyond the government's ability to address alone.
  10. The Virtualization of Education
    By 2025, traditional universities may be a thing of the past, replaced by consortia of course providers with delivery systems that simply bypass the classroom.

Acquiring a Futurist's Perspective

As advisers, we must be cognizant of our duty to acquire a worldview perspective and the need to help students acquire the knowledge to succeed in a global economy. Understanding and appreciating different cultures and respecting persons from diverse backgrounds are critical for living responsibly and successfully in our future society.

Students will increasingly expect advisers to be conversant with the job market opportunities of the future and the types of knowledge and skills needed to succeed as a college graduate. As mentioned earlier, the work world our graduates enter will be different from that of their parents. They will encounter an economy that will be more service-oriented. They will be faced with drug screening, more short-term jobs, and foreign competition. There will be more home-based businesses, more flextime jobs, and a greater emphasis on corporate ethics. High technology will require a familiarity with computers, data processing, and telecommunications. Although the acquisition of more technical knowledge is critical, the liberal learning that a college experience provides will continue to provide students with the communication and problem-solving skills needed in any endeavor. (Gordon, 1992, p. 192)

Testing Your Preparedness for the Future

The following instrument is adapted from Habley (1986).

Test your preparedness for the following areas by indicating if you are very prepared (VP), somewhat prepared (SP), or not prepared (NP).

Preparedness for the future test
______1.I am very familiar with the cultural backgrounds of my students and can adjust any advising approaches to be sensitive to the important differences within those cultures.
______2.I am constantly reading about work opportunities of the future and share this information with my advisees.
______3.I help my advisees understand the decision-making process and the importance of developing solid decision-making skills so that their future decision making will be effective.
______4.I often take a proactive stand on institutional policies that will have an impact on the future of the institution and students.
______5.I am always ready to learn about new technologies and implement them in my daily work whenever necessary.
______6.I am regularly involved in evaluating our advisers and our services so that we may improve in the future.
______7.I often have questions about how we advise or what impact we are having on students' decisions and lives; I initiate research studies to provide information to confirm that our current practices are meeting the objectives and outcomes we espouse.
______8.I attend regional and national conferences and always return to implement at least one idea for improving our advising program.
______9.I carefully monitor the future goals of my institution and make sure students' interests are at the center of those goals.
______10.I read on a regular basis articles, books, and magazines that will help me form ideas about the future and how our advising approaches and services can prepare students for those challenges.
______11.Our advising services have established goals for the future and have an action plan and time line for meeting those goals.


The following is an excerpt from “Meeting the Needs of Tomorrow's Learners and Tomorrow's Workplace,” chapter twenty-seven in Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook, by Virginia Gordon (pp. 381-392).

As we contemplate the future of higher education and our roles as advisors, we must always be cognizant of society's accelerated rate of change and how it will affect our personal and professional lives. Advisors must never lose sight of their noble purpose of providing students with an accepting and challenging environment in which they can learn and grow to their full potential.

In the future, advisors will need continually to develop new technological skills, expand their expertise in career advising, learn new skills as communicators and interpreters of complex information, and become more involved as collaborators with both institutional and community resources. A new role – that of advisor as futurist – will be essential if we are to help ourselves and our students succeed in a rapidly changing world.

As Bertman (1998) observes, we must prevent our “hyperculture” from obscuring history and memory. A balance of the past, present, and future, must be preserved if we are to provide our students with a stable, humane environment in which to live, learn, and work.