Peer advising program eases transition to college

Alexandra McClellan ’17 still remembers the day she received an email from her peer advisor in 2014 welcoming her to Cornell. “I couldn’t wait to get to Ithaca, but I was also nervous, and my advisor was incredibly helpful in immediately answering my questions,” said McClellan, now a peer advisor herself.

Arts & Sciences peer advisors are upperclassmen, who make themselves available to help first-year students transition to Cornell.

“Being a peer advisor to freshmen is just one of the ways that I can help someone and say, ‘Hey I’m here for you.’ There is something comforting about having an upperclassman genuinely reach out and do that,” McClellan said. “Even if a peer advisee never asks me a single question, my feelings remain the same.”

Each peer advisor is assigned about 12 advisees, who they reach out to in June, inviting them to connect by email. They meet face to face during Orientation Week. Students who are interested in being peer advisors apply and must go through an application process and training in order to become official peer advisors.

After the initial meeting, the advisees can go to their peer advisors with questions or concerns.

“As peer advisors, we are one of the many resources available for incoming students, and also serve as an intermediary between them and other experts within the College of Arts and Sciences,” said Krystin Chiellini ’17.

Because peer advisors don’t offer academic advice, they’re not assigned based upon area of study, but they do offer advice on how to become familiar with other aspects of Cornell including social and extracurricular activities.

“Although Cornell can seem overwhelming at times, there are many ways to become part of communities and seek advice,” said Liz Abeles ’18.  “I encourage my advisees to sign up for clubs and get to know different groups on campus.”

Since peer advisors are students themselves, the advice they lend to freshmen is invaluable.

“Sharing first hand experiences and helping them navigate Cornell in the first year are our primary responsibilities,” Chiellini said.

Peer advisors give advice based on their experiences at Cornell thus far, helping freshmen ease into college life, and connect to upperclassmen.

“I firmly believe that my one-on-one and face-to-face connections with advisees can help strengthen the bonds within our community,” Abeles said. “I love bumping into my advisees around campus and exchanging hellos. By being a welcoming face and helpful peer around campus, I hope that my interactions with others are contributing to a feeling of connectedness campus-wide.”

To find out more about the peer advisor program or to apply to become a peer advisor, visit

Anna Carmichael is a communications assistant for the College of Arts & Sciences. 

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