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Academies provide tailored advising for college, academics

Tom Coyne
Culver has combined academic advising and college advising into a single adviser system.

Culver has combined academic advising and college advising into a single advisor system.

 

Single advisor system takes effect for 2022-23

 

August 12, 2022

Each student at Culver Academies will now have one advisor to guide them through everything from the best classes to take, to selecting a college, to career options as part of a four-year advising plan that offers more exceptional and personal attention. 

“This will allow us to get to know our students really well and learn what their needs are and what their dreams are and how to get them there,” said Kim Cullen, Culver Academies’ dean of academic and college advising. 

Culver added four advisors, increasing the total to 10, as it shifts to a single-advisor model that provides more hands-on guidance. Students previously had one advisor for academic advising while at Culver, and another for college advising, and those advisors sometimes changed from year to year. Culver looked at what other top private independent schools were doing and determined the single-advisor model was most effective. 

Cullen said the single-advisor model helps ensure that students’ needs and interests are best supported because advisors meet them as freshmen and fourth classmen, build relationships and work with them throughout their four years, learning each student’s strengths and weaknesses, what motivates them, and as a result offer tailored advice.  

Advisors also can help students look at emerging careers in a rapidly changing world. Advisors also will work in collaboration with families to support students while empowering them to set goals and plan their futures. Advisors also may be able to help students explain their decisions to parents. 

“Our goal as advisors is not to tell the parents what is best for their kids, but to help students talk to the parents about what's working for them and maybe what isn't. In many ways we can serve as facilitators of those meetings between students and their families,” Cullen said. 

The advisors also will be better positioned to help students who make sudden, radical changes in career choices. Cullen gives the example of her son who thought about being a doctor when he was in ninth and 10th grades, and then in 11th grade decided he wanted to pursue a career in humanities. He ended up majoring in business and entertainment in college. 

“It's just a matter of listening to students and having an understanding of where different choices might take them,” she said.  

Part of that includes working with students to keep doors open for various choices for as long as possible. 

“A strong high school program has a curriculum that's as broad as it is deep. Students have the opportunity to learn about a lot of things with as much depth as possible so that when they do start to make decisions about the directions that they want to move in, they can do that seamlessly,” Cullen said. “By starting to work with them in 9th grade, we can have a full vision of the changes that they're making and the decisions that they're taking, and the direction they are moving in.” 

Advisors can ensure students have the information they need and are asking the right questions. She said advisors also can help students find the right questions to ask. Some students tend to glorify a career without looking at the reality. She said an advisor might encourage someone who wants to be an engineer to talk to an engineer. 

 “Have a conversation with somebody who is a mechanical engineer and ask them: ‘What do they do? How did they get there?” Cullen said. “Helping students do their own digging and their own exploring is important.” 

Seniors and first classmen have an opportunity to do that in the spring during Culver Connections weekend, when the Leadership Department and Alumni Office bring in alumni and parents from a variety of careers -- such as military, medicine, business, law, and entertainment, among others -- to talk about how they navigate their careers, practically and ethically, and other aspects of their jobs. 

The single-advisor system means each student will get more focused attention because each advisor will have no more than 25 seniors they are helping. Seniors and first classmen already have been told who their advisors are. Other students will be informed at the start of the school year.  

The advisors have been split into three teams to work together to make sure they can connect on any potential issues and make sure they are up to date on trends.  

“I think one of the advantages of having the single-advisor model is that it's one more adult who gets to know kids really well,” Cullen said. “In most cases it will be a powerful connection where the adult can support the student and can advocate for them with their parents, with community organizations, with scholarship programs and with everyone else.”

 

Adviser Dave Bonner talks with a parent at registration for the 2022-23 school year.

Director of College Advising Dave Bonner talks with a student at registration for the 2022-23 school year.

 

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