Three important goals of first-year advising are:
- To give first-year students an understanding of what constitutes a liberal arts education at Yale and to help them transition from high school to college
- To convey an immediate sense that faculty and staff members are accessible and take a personal interest in them and in their education
- To help them appreciate the need to strike a balance between academic commitments and extra-curricular activities
Additional goals include:
- Helping first-year students think through how their choices, not just their academic ones, fit into their future plans
- Helping them understand the community that they are joining
- Encouraging them to ask big questions, rather than thinking exclusively about courses or requirements
Putting first-year students at ease means thinking about who they are when they arrive on campus. Many have never been away from home before and may be overwhelmed and homesick. Most first-years are 17 -18 years old. They are still adolescents in need of guidance and limits, but also young adults who want to feel independent. We also need to keep in mind previous COVID-related disruptions in their homelives and their schooling. In short, we need to offer them guidance, but also give them the freedom to find their own way.
As a member of the Yale University community, you are able to give your advisees the kind of advice that is grounded in your experience with Yale. You are able to help them think about the kinds of questions they should be asking themselves and introduce them to the variety of resources available to them. Some students will have questions that you can readily answer; others will not have even begun to consider why they are at Yale and what they want to get out of their time here. You can help these latter students by asking them questions about how their goals and personal interests relate to the courses they plan to take. Sometimes the connection will be clear. In other cases, however, there will be no apparent connection, and you can help students think about their courses in a new light. In other words, first-year advisers serve to challenge students to see the big picture, to reflect on their goals for a Yale College education, and to help them to develop their many capabilities to the fullest.
The mission statement of Yale College, especially the language highlighted below, provides one possible roadmap for the work of a first-year adviser:
“The mission of Yale College is to seek exceptionally promising students of all backgrounds from across the nation and around the world and to educate them, through mental discipline and social experience, to develop their intellectual, moral, civic, and creative capacities to the fullest. The aim of this education is the cultivation of citizens with a rich awareness of our heritage to lead and serve in every sphere of human activity.”
That says nothing about your potential ability to recommend, say, Music 218a instead of Music 219a (but, if you can do that, too, there’s no harm done!).