There are two types of advisees at Carleton: liberal arts advisees and major advisees. Liberal arts advisees are students in their first five terms and these convert to major advisees when they declare a major (or a first major) during their sixth term. Departments assign advisers to their majors and the Director of Advising assigns advisers to all liberal arts advisees.

The process of assignment begins during the summer when the Director of Advising identifies all sophomores whose advisers are going on leave all year, just in the fall, or both fall and winter terms. The Director of Advising then reassigns these sophomores to new advisers, usually on July 15 or shortly thereafter. In all cases, both advisers and advisees are informed of any changes and extant advisers always have first call on whether they want their rising sophomore advisees back.

The process for incoming students involves calculating the number of slots available from all faculty and staff advisers who will be on campus and eligible to advise during all three terms of the first year. (Exceptions do occur due to unplanned leaves of absence, maternity and paternity leaves, staff departures from the College, etc.). In all cases, every adviser who is eligible to advise first-year students will be contacted by the Director of Advising during the summer to make sure that they understand their obligations to be available during the labor days of New Student Week (NSW). By that time, incoming students will have selected their A&I seminars and will have registered for courses, though their schedules may be altered after they meet with their assigned advisers during NSW and during the normal add/drop period at the beginning of fall term. 

Advising frosh is a big responsibility. It requires more time on average than is the case with more experienced students. The Office of the Director of Advising is committed to spreading out the advising load for frosh across available faculty and staff advisers. Normally, no academic advisor is to carry an advising load exceeding 18 total advisees (liberal arts + major advisees). The average load for the College in recent years has been 12. To achieve evenness of advising loads, the Director of Advising employs several rules of thumb. First, new faculty, who are eligible to advise beginning with their second year, are asked to advise no more than eight first-year advisees. Second, staff advisers are asked to advise no more than five. Third, the Director contacts all A&I instructors to negotiate how many advisees they wish to take on. In some cases, it is feasible to assume all 15 students (though this is uncommon given extant advising loads). After FOCUS, POSSE, most TRIO, and most A&I students are assigned their advisers, the Director sorts the available slots and then assigns the rest of the first-year class. Normally, assignments are lower for faculty in departments with a high major-faculty ratio, faculty who are chairs or program directors, and tenure-track faculty beyond the second year. Faculty who already have a large number of major advisees can expect to not receive many (or any) frosh advisees. Departments and programs may communicate with the Director of Advising their preferred advising allocations by filing an advising plan in June.