Existentialist Advising


  • Alan Reynolds University of California, Merced




existentialism, identity foreclosure, self-authorship, Socratic advising, Marxism, communitarianism, nontraditional students


This paper explores the application of Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist philosophy to academic advising. In Sartre’s worldview, we are born into a meaningless universe, forcing us to create our identity, craft our values, choose our future, and accept the full weight of responsibility for everything we do. This philosophy resonates with many college students for whom their time in college marks a period of transition into adulthood and independence. Students are confronted with important choices about class selection, major choice, career interests, values, goals, identity, and overall life trajectory. Existentialist advising places the freedom and responsibility of students center stage and creates an advising relationship where students are encouraged to make authentic choices. While existentialist advising shares similar themes with other advising approaches, it offers unique and important insights for advising practice, making it an essential tool in the advising toolbelt.


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