Megan Zogby writes for the Martin Center about the link between college success and good advisers.

When planning their college years, students want reliable advisors who can help them pick the right major and classes. As most students are not on campus during COVID-19, high-quality early advising may determine whether they will graduate on time.

Even before the pandemic, graduation rates across higher ed outside the most prestigious schools were a concern. Only 44 percent of full-time college students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years, and only 62 percent graduate in six years. A key factor in students graduating is how active they are on campus.

Charlie Nutt, executive director of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), told The Hechinger Report that “research clearly shows that when a student is more engaged on campus they are more likely to remain enrolled and persist to graduation. Academic advising is the key mechanism, and on many campuses, the only mechanism, through which students have a person they’re connected with.”

Doing so remotely is even more difficult, and it’s happening at a time when advisors are stretched thin.

According to a 2011 survey conducted by NACADA and the testing company ACT, the average college had one advisor for every 367 students.“It is becoming difficult for students to find advisors who have the time to dedicate to their needs as most advisors have other responsibilities on campus,” the survey noted.

Advisors also play a key role in guiding students toward—or away from—different fields.

“While it has been an accepted notion that one can major in many fields and work in many fields, we also know that choosing a career first does not mean that a student is academically or even temperamentally up to being successful in that major,” Eric R. White, a former NACADA president, wrote for Inside Higher Ed. The student who faints at the sight of blood may not be a good fit for medical school; the student who likes people more than computers may be less suited for coding.