Some Advice on Choosing a Professional Student Advisor

It is quite a responsibility to be in the position to advise someone on decisions that could very well shape the course of their lives. The team at Saksara have put together a list of the top five attributes of a professional student advisor. We hope that this will help you understand the types of questions you should ask your chosen student advisor in order to better shape your future. 

1. Deep Institutional Knowledge 

A thorough knowledge of institutional strengths in various disciplines is critically important to being a professional advisor. No university is broadly good at everything, and all universities have strengths in various domains of teaching, learning and research. A professional advisor will understand the capabilities of a university they recommend, and should be able to explain to you why they will make a particular recommendation. Anyone who understands the methodologies of university rankings systems will understand that a high rank does not translate into a rationale for advising every student in that direction. For example, The University of Melbourne is one of Australia’s highest ranked universities, and they excel in many fields of academia. However, for example, in ‘analytical chemistry’ they performed ‘below world standard’ in research in this field, whilst La Trobe, UNSW, University of Tasmania, and University of Wollongong are all rated as ‘well above world standard’ for research in this field. It is also important to understand other contributing factors like the size and quality of the community of researchers in the broader associated fields of research and teaching, the quality of teaching staff and the resources they have available, highly notable teaching and research staff in the chosen discipline, and the context of the discipline to the location of the university. These are all factors that will impact your study experience and factors that good advisors will take into consideration with their advice. 

2. Courses, Majors, Minors and other opportunities

Imagine if you had known that selecting a major in economics and a minor in natural resource management at one of Australia’s leading universities, coupled with a student exchange program to the University Wisconsin-Madison and an internship with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome would result in an amazing career as an agricultural economist with one of Asia’s biggest financial institutions. Or that specialised program in mining engineering and mechatronics would result in you designing and testing robotics systems for minerals exploration. Understanding courses, combination and other opportunities is the core business of a professional students advisor. Sometimes as parents and students its difficult to understand the diversity of choices that are actually available to you. A professional advisor should help you to understand the possibilities for your life and your career, and the best possible choices for helping you get there. They should study hard to understand the things you may never have heard of. Whether it is nanotechnology, econometrics, actuarial science, political science, biomedical engineering, polymer chemistry, or hundreds of other options, a professional advisor will help you understand and present options to inform your life choices.  

3. Careers and life beyond a degree

The very idea and concept of a university degree is traditionally quite contrary to vocational training. A university education is supposed to be about expanding your intellect, learning about the world at a much deeper, critical and analytical level. Having a broad education and having the opportunity to delve in depth to a specific discipline is an important feature of a university degree, and its what sets it apart from vocational education and training. Few people understand that there is very little correlation with what most people study at university and what they end up doing with their life. The data does tell us that generally those with a university agree will end up with more career satisfaction, significantly higher salaries, and better health and life outcomes. For many people, they are able to create interesting opportunities for their life by being strategic about their studies. Several years ago now, I advised a young school leaver into studying climate science, which she was quite passionate about. Her studies eventually branched off into a specialisation in carbon sequestration in soils, which is an important factor in understanding global climate change. She found a unique field that few people are engaged in. She interned at the bureau of meteorology and is now working with the United Nations program to reduce carbon emissions through deforestation and forest degradation in Indonesia. Understanding what everyone else is doing is important, but knowing more about what other people aren’t doing can really position students for an interesting and rewarding career and life. A professional student advisor will understand the dynamics of graduate careers, will know the data and statistics, and understand the strategic decisions you can make to give yourself that career edge. 

4. Future Forecaster

A good advisor investigates and understands the future. It was less than one work life generation ago when colleges all over the world were teaching secretaries how to use a typewriter. Conversely, a few insightful and curious kids enrolled in those little understood courses about computer science. These graduates were at the forefront of the information revolution, which has radically transformed the way we think, work, play and interact with each other. There are entire academic disciplines devoted to understanding the shape of the future. A good advisor will read, know and understand the shape of things to come. There are many emerging careers that we have yet to know about, there are many soon to be in-demand careers, and understanding the direction of these can help you make successful choices for your career and study.

5. Education Experience

Look for some experience in pedagogy and education. A good advisor will understand the educational processes involved in acquiring knowledge, like a basic understanding of information processing models, cognitive development, multiple intelligences theories, and socio emotional and cultural factors that influence teaching and learning. An understanding of these factors will help the advisor better understand their student clients throughout the process. This will also help parents understand the types of courses their children are more likely to excel in, and be successful in. This professional attribute of an advisor will ultimately help determine what courses and institution will best suit their capabilities, ambitions and learning style. 


As you can see. A good advisor will help you navigate the administration of applying to an overseas university, and help you find student accommodation and get a visa. But a great student advisor will help you see well beyond these tasks to the type of future that informed and strategic choices can help create for you. If you are interested to make an appointment with our student advising team, please fill out the form here, and we will get back to you within a few hours to confirm your appointment time.