Resources for Student Organization Advisors

Faculty and staff who choose to be organization advisors become part of students’ lives in a transformative way. As a resource for the whole group – and especially the group leaders – the advisor has a front-row seat for experiences that fast-track student development.  Watching and listening, being available to assist when asked, acting as a sounding board, consultant, mentor, and enthusiast: the role of an advisor can be fascinating and important.

The resources below are designed to assist you in that important role.  And the Student Organizations, Leadership and Engagement staff are well informed and ready partners whenever questions arise.

Be a great advisor

  1. Respect the group’s autonomy.  Think of the organization as a life lab where students learn by experimenting.  Instead of stepping in to avert issues, wait to see if the students figure out the issues themselves.  What you see may surprise you.  And of course, as an advisor, you are there if the students ask for your help.
  2. Be reliable.  Attend events when you can.  Be responsive when group leaders and members seek your advice.  Reach out sometimes, so you can stay informed about the group’s plans and aspirations; ask helpful questions so you understand the processes.  Watch the group dynamics, and listen to the members.  Develop your knowledge and perspective so when students seek your advice, you’ll be prepared to give it -- or better yet, to guide their own understanding.
  3. Be supportive.  Get to know group members as well as group leaders, so you can be an advisor for the whole group.  Serve as a sounding board, counselor, motivator, and resource person.  Above all, share your enthusiasm for the group and the individuals who comprise it.  Let them know when they’re doing a great job, and help them feel good about themselves when they’re struggling.
  4. Know how to access resources and information.  Take a look through the sections below so you know where to find resources and support before they’re needed.  And if you’d like something more, ask the helpful staff at the Student Organizations, Leadership and Engagement Office.


Student development

Advising a student group is an exceptional way to be important to students in a time-efficient way. As a role model, counselor, mentor, and caring supporter, your influence can help everyone in the group to develop new perspectives, strategies, and skills, and to cope with personal and interpersonal issues that arise.

Here are some resources that can help you support them -- and guide them in turning to in-depth support beyond what you can offer as their advisor.

  • Leadership development:
    • Toolkit: A compilation of leadership resources created by the Student Organizations, Leadership and Engagement Office, including activities, self-assessments, case studies, Ted Talks, videos, and courses
    • Leadership programs:  This is where you’ll find current offerings, as well as recurrent offerings like the annual LeaderShape retreat, which is an extraordinary experience for students. 
  • DSLx Life Learning: This online microlesson platform offers 24/7 access to life strategies like conflict management, empathy, and growth mindset, as well as information about MIT support for students
  • Student Support and Wellbeing: This link takes you to the Student Support and Wellbeing group along with direct links to learn more about academic, personal, disability, substance use/abuse, crisis, and violence prevention services

Membership recruitment

The group’s long-term viability may depend on successful recruitment strategies.  This will be a central concern of the student leaders, and it’s one reason that holding events can be important.  If other students aren’t aware of the group, recruitment is a real challenge.

You may want to look over these strategies, so you can support the group’s recruitment efforts:

Membership retention

Student groups are great for bringing people together around a common interest, and they are also great for developing the skills and understanding of individuals.  Membership retention is important for creating a functional group that remains effective as individuals come and go.

Leadership transitions

Transitions are a natural part of student life, but leadership transitions can be a difficult time for a group. A dependable, trusted advisor can help the group to transition smoothly.

Here a few resources to consider yourself or to pass along to group members:

Financial management

As an advisor, your main concern about group finances is helping the students to be fiscally responsible.  Occasional inquiry may be all that is needed.  If you want more information, SOLE has resources that can help.