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Challenges and Rewards of Advising

Tomorrow's Academy

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Let us turn now to the wide variety of rewards that the community, institutions, organizations, advisers, and students can enjoy as part of their experience with student groups.



The posting below looks at the many rewards for various stakeholders who engage in student advising. It is from Chapter 1 – Challenges and Rewards of Advising , in the book, Advising Student Groups and Organizations, by Norbert W. Dunkel, John H. Schuh, and Nancy E. Chrystal-Green. Published by Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Brand. One Montgomery Street, Suite 1200, San Francisco, CA 94104-4594. Copyright © 2014 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Rick Reis

UP NEXT: Interdisciplinary Collaboration

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                                                                                                                      Rewards of Student Advising

Let us turn now to the wide variety of rewards that the community, institutions, organizations, advisers, and students can enjoy as part of their experience with student groups.

Community Rewards

The local community realizes a reward from the leadership and service provided to the greater community. Many student organizations have within their mission to provide community service. These student organizations focus on providing services for after-school students; mentoring for at-risk elementary, middle, and high school students; holding volunteer fairs to provide information on social issues and service opportunities; painting, repairing, or building homes and apartments; providing healthy lifestyle information to community members; judging local science fairs; or cleaning up local creeks and parks.

The Independence Sector (2013) provides an estimated value of volunteer time. In 2012 this time was valued at $22 per hour. Many colleges and universities use this calculation to quantify their student organization and members’ service hours. The Center for Leadership and Service at the University of Florida (2013) in their most recent report calculated 115,963 student and student organization service hours valued at $2,163,870 for the State of Florida and $2,526,833 nationally. The University of Tennessee (2013) allows students to self-log their service hours. In 2012-13 over 12,000 service hours were performed by students and student organizations.

College students make a significant contribution to their communities through volunteering and service, according to the most recent Volunteering and Civic Life in America 2012. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service (2013), in 2012, 3.1 million college students dedicated more than 118 million hours of service across the United States – a contribution valued at $2.5 billion.

Institutional Rewards

An institution’s ability to attract and recruit new students may be greatly increased by the visibility and involvement of students in organizations. Some of the more visible student organizations lead summer orientation programs for new and prospective students and their parents and families. Other organizations work throughout the academic year as student diplomats and ambassadors to host tours and speak to prospective students and their parents. These student organizations have as their primary purposes advancing the institution and providing information to campus visitors for the recruitment of students. Many other student organizations (such as military, collegiate sports, and special interests) use their visibility or connection to academic programs to recruit students to the institution. Involvement in recruitment programs can be found in many other student organizations’ purpose statements. The array of cultural organizations on your campus allows institutions to demonstrate the diversity of their student body.

Improved retention is another institutional benefit of students’ involvement in organizations. We know that “learning, academic performance, and retention are positively associated with academic involvement, involvement with faculty, and involvement with student peer groups” (Astin, 1993, 394). Academic involvement includes time allocated to studying and doing homework, courses taken, and specific learning experiences. Involvement with faculty includes talking with faculty outside of class (for example, as part of involvement in student organizations), being among a group invited to a professor’s home, or working on a research project. Involvement with student peer groups includes “participating in intramural sports, being a member of a social fraternity or sorority,… being elected to a student office, and hours spent in socializing or in student clubs or organizations” (385).

Improved retention has also been demonstrated through the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) (Hughes and Pace 2003). Students who participated in a community-based project, participated in co-curricular activities, and students who planned to have an internship or field experience were less likely to withdraw from the institution. Another NSSE study (2001) indicated that two-thirds of all minority senior students were “involved in community service and volunteer work” (3). In addition, a 2008 study (Kuh, Cruce, Shoup, Kinzie, and Gonyea) concluded that “student engagement in educationally purposeful activities is positively related to academic outcomes as represented by first-year student grades and by persistence between first and second year of college” (555). Educationally purposeful activities were from a scale of 19 NSSE items including participating in a community-based project as a part of a regular course and working with faculty members on activities other than coursework (i.e., committees, orientation, student life activities, and so on).

Another benefit to the institution is to have students serve on various advisory boards and committees to provide feedback for institutional events and projects. Many institutions request that students from various organizations serve as representatives on search committees, athletic advisory committees, student union boards, concert committees, recreational sports advisory boards, budget advisory committees, or even as voting members of institutional and state governing boards. The feedback and insight that students provide the institution come directly from the consumer through a student organization.

A similar reward is to have key student organization leaders meet with campus administrators, faculty, and staff during times of crises to provide feedback and assistance to the institution. In the past few years, serial killings, major fires, natural disasters, and terrorist activities have occurred on college campuses. The individuals who have lost their lives included students, faculty, and staff. These events and their aftermaths are difficult periods for the campus. The director of the counseling center on a campus that experienced multiple homicides observes, “The absolutely outstanding cooperation of our student leaders, particularly the student body president, enabled us to get valuable student feedback and perspectives, and provided strong leadership for students” (Archer 1992, 97). Involving key student leaders from such organizations as the residence hall association, fraternities and sororities, student government, the Hispanic-Latino student association, or the black student union can help the institution plan memorial ceremonies, improve educational approaches to safety and security, or publicize enhanced services. In addition, student organizations can be involved in press conferences to help reassure students and answer questions.

Organizational Rewards

Naturally, the primary organizational reward is in providing students with an opportunity to participate in an enjoyable activity or to achieve a valuable purpose. Students participate in organizations, in part, to gain a sense of acceptance by their peers. Astin (1993) asserts that the peer group is the most potent source of influence on students’ growth and development during their college careers. If students discover an organization that provides a common interest or academic theme to their liking, they may feel a greater sense of acceptance. The organization’s reward is a group of students with common interests, enjoyment, or goals.

Another organizational reward is the opportunity to contribute to the tradition and history of the institution and organization. Many student military, sports, Greek letter, and honorary organizations have a rich history within an institution. The organizations may sponsor homecoming events, such as the student-produced Gator Growl at the University of Florida, a comedy, concert, and fireworks show pep rally in the football stadium, which attracts over thirty thousand students and alumni; career expositions; or major institutional events, such as VEISHEA at Iowa State University. “VEISHEA is an acronym for each of the colleges in existence at the time the festival was founded [in 1922]” (Schuh 1991, 40). Another example of a campus event is the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, originally developed by Richard Archer, a professor of art and design, as a final examination for his freshman design class. These types of events provide some student organizations with the opportunity to contribute to the tradition and history of the college.

Another organizational reward is in the fulfillment of the organization’s purpose. Some organizations advance an area of study or research, provide feedback to the institution, prepare students for military service, provide recreation, or represent students of a particular constituency. A student organization that fulfills its purpose provides one of the greatest rewards possible. When student leaders can keep their organization involved in matters within its stated purpose, the organization maintains strong leadership and meets its goals. This improves the legitimacy of the organization on campus as being recognized for good work and increases its sphere of influence. When a student organization finds it necessary to pursue other meaningful purposes, the students must know and understand how to revise their constitution, adjust purpose statements, or redirect the resources available to them.

Adviser Rewards

One of the several rewards for you as an adviser is being able to observe the development of students during their college matriculation. You have the opportunity to work with incoming students and, in many cases, observe them in and out of classroom environments over the course of several years. You can feel the students’ excitement as they too discover an organization. It is rewarding to observe the students as they move from membership to leadership roles, or from being reserved to participating fully. When seasoned advisers are asked why they continue to serve, the majority of answers include the idea of being in a position to make an impact on the growth and development of students.

Another reward for you, one that is seldom sought, is to be recognized by the institution, organization, and students for a job well done. Letters from students ten years after they graduate, a plaque from the executive board at the conclusion of the year, a distinguished service award from the institution, an advising award from the organization’s national association, or a thank-you from a student – all these are possible (usually unexpected) rewards for your involvement in a student organization.

You should feel flattered in serving as a reference for students. When a student approaches you for a reference, it means that in the student’s eyes, a relationship exists between you and the student. At certain times of the year the request for references can be inordinately heavy; however, the reward in being asked to complete a reference far outweighs the work involved in providing it.

A very fulfilling aspect of being an adviser is in serving as a mentor for students. Either you or the student can initiate the mentor relationship. Maintaining contact with certain students during their academic career or providing them assistance following their graduation can be very rewarding to a mentor in an advisory capacity. Chapter 5 provides detail about the mentoring role and also identifies activities that you and students can undertake.

Another reward for you is the opportunity to be able to observe the fads, cultures, and subtle changes that occur in student life. You sometimes are among the few individuals on campus who possess a sense of campus activities and attitudes. In the course of attending meetings, going on trips with the organization, or attending evening activities, you will find it easy to observe and note the language, dress, and nonverbal communication of the students along with the various messages and nuances of their interaction. Your being able to relate enables better understanding of students, which in turn helps you as you work with the organization, academic department, or institution on student problems and concerns.

Advising also provides an opportunity to teach, lead, and coach students involved in student organizations. You may present programs to the organization’s membership or executive boards, facilitate leadership development programs for members, take members and executive boards on retreats and workshops, or involve the members in community service or volunteer service. These types of activities allow you to practice your teaching, leading, and coaching skills. Chapter 5 provides detailed information and activities for each of these advising roles.

Another reward is an opportunity to form networks with colleagues involved as advisers of similar organizations. Traveling to professional or student-oriented conferences allows you the opportunity to visit with colleagues with similar interests. These trips and collegial relationships not only rejuvenate you but also help create a network to rely on for resources and information. Some organizations have highly developed regional, national, or international associations for advisers, separate from the students. These organizations provide you a forum in which to openly discuss problems and present views. Similarly, an increasing number of online discussion groups provide a more global opportunity to discuss topics and access resources without even leaving the office. Chapter 2 provides summary information on different types of student organizations as well as on the professional organizations available to you.

The opportunity advising provides to serve the institution is yet another reward. Many faculty in large, research-oriented institutions are evaluated on the basis of their teaching, research, and service. Serving as a faculty adviser to an organization enriches the service component of a faculty member’s annual dossier. This reward is peripheral to the many others you will realize as an adviser, but is nonetheless important for those faculty who have tenure or other related compensation considerations tied, at least in part, to institutional service. In community colleges the faculty evaluation process will emphasize teaching and service. Advising a student organization as a faculty member at a community college is an excellent way to provide services and is rewarded accordingly.

A final reward for you is the opportunity to participate in an organization whose purpose you enjoy. For many faculty and staff, the work of their profession leaves little time for additional special interests. However, among the wide variety of student organizations that exist, you can often find one whose activities or purpose complements your interests.

Student Rewards

As we have already discussed, the rewards or benefits students gain through involvement in extracurricular activities have been studied extensively. Astin (1993) reports that membership in a social fraternity or sorority has positive effects on leadership abilities; participating in intramural sports has a positive effect on physical health, alcohol consumption, and attainment of the bachelor’s degree; and participating in collegiate sports has positive effects on physical health, leadership, and satisfaction with student life. Pascarella and Terenzini (2005) conclude that learning and personal development are enhanced when students are involved in educationally purposeful extracurricular activities. Kuh and Lund (1994) observe that involvement in student government “was the single most potent experience associated with the development of practical competence” (10). Practical competence in this case is defined as skills that employers are seeking, in such areas as decision making, leadership, cooperation, and communications. Kuh and Lund also report that participation in student government contributes to the development of self-confidence and self-esteem. Student skill development can be greatly increased through their building self-confidence and self-awareness. “Students with an awareness of their weaknesses were better equipped to challenge themselves to apply new skills and improve themselves through practice” (Fincher 2009, 303). Involvement in student organizations provides students an opportunity to become better listeners, manage problems, and expand their motivation.

Student rewards include being recognized by the institution, organization, or adviser; meeting new people and discovering new friends; gaining new skills that can be transferred to their careers; networking with faculty, staff, and employers through contacts gained in the student organization; enjoying the personal satisfaction of completing tasks and projects that have received a positive evaluation; and the sense of giving back to their institution by serving as a campus resource to parents, faculty, staff, and other students.

Students also benefit when they learn skills while working with the organization that can be transferred to their career. Chapter 6 provides an exercise in identifying these transferable skills.

* * *

You will find tremendous gratification in advising a student organization. The few challenges are always manageable. The following chapters will provide you numerous resources to prepare you to realize the many benefits.


Archer, J. 1992. “Campus in Crisis: Coping with Fear and Panic Related to Serial Murders.” Journal of Counseling and Development 71: 96-100.

Astin, A.W. 1993. What Matters in College? Four Critical Years Revisited. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Fincher, J. 2009. “Consciousness of Self.” In Leadership for a Better World, edited by S.R. Komives, W. Wagner, and Associated. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hughes, R., and C.R. Pace. 2003. “Using NSSE to Study Student Retention and Withdrawal.” Assessment Update, July-August, 154: 1.

Independent Sector. 2013. Independent Sector’s Value of Volunteer Time. Retrieved from

Kuh, G.D., T.M. Cruce, R. Shoup, J. Kinzie, and R. M. Gonyea. 2008. “Unmasking the Effects of Student Engagement on First-Year College Grades and Persistence.” The Journal of Higher Education 795:540-563.

Kuh, G.D., and J.P. Lund. 1994. “What Students Gain from Participating in Student Government.” In Developing Student Government Leadership, edited by M.C. Terrell and M.J. Cuyjet, 5-18. New Directions for Student Services, no. 66. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). 2001. 2001 NSSE Viewpoint: Improving the College Experience: Using Effective Educational Practices. Bloomington: Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research.

Pascarella, E.J., and P.T. Terenzini. 2005. How College Affects Students, Vol. 2: A Third Decade of Research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Schuh, J.H. 1991. “Making a Large University Feel Small: The Iowa State University Story.” In The Role and Contributions of Student Affairs in Involving Colleges, edited by G.D. Kuh and J.H. Schuh, 30-41. Washington, DC: National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

University of Florida Geomatics Association. 2013. UF Geomatics Association Constitution. Retrieved from

University of Tennessee. 2013. One Campus. One Community. Celebrate the Differences. Retrieved from