Documentation Guidelines

student and advisor meeting


The Pathways platform provides several different ways for faculty and staff to document a student interaction. Regardless of the way a faculty or staff member utilizes the platform, it is important to keep in mind that any record maintained in Pathways is part of the student’s educational record, is viewable by others in the platform, and could be subject to a student access request under The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Maintaining records of interactions with students, however, is essential for a variety of reasons. First, it creates an “institutional memory” of contacts with students, which allows advisors to provide consistent messaging to students. Second, it personalizes the advising experience by refreshing the advisor’s recollection of previous conversations they had with the student or alerting them to previous conversations the student had with another advisor. Third, it allows for enhanced collaboration and communication between advisors and other staff working with students. Finally, this information is invaluable to administrators and dean’s office staff who often need to recreate a student’s contacts with advising staff.

When deciding whether to access a student’s record, ask yourself:

  • Do I have a specific, job-related need to access this record? Or am I just satisfying my curiosity?

When deciding whether to enter information into Pathways, ask yourself:

  • Is this something another Pathways user connected with the student would need to know?
  • Are the details in my notes based on fact? Or are they observational and personal? Is the distinction clear and written in a non-judgmental tone?
  • Are my notes interpretable by someone else? Did I provide enough information for another person to understand the substance and context? Did I avoid using jargon and acronyms?
  • Would I be okay with this information being on the front page of The Chronicle of Higher Education?

Standard Topics to Be Documented

meeting with advisor

Every substantial contact with a student or relating to a student should be documented and should include appropriate details and the date of the interaction. Typically, this documentation includes the content of discussion with students, including interpretations of policy, issues raised, and recommendations made. See specific guidelines documenting student interactions in Pathways.

Sensitive Subject Matter

fall foliage

Caution should be exercised when using Pathways to document topics that contain sensitive or time-sensitive subject matter. Do not use Pathways to document emergency situations. If a student issue is an emergency or requires an immediate response, please call the University of Pittsburgh Police: 412-624-2121. The CARS Team will continue to respond to student behavior identified as reasonably causing concern for students’ health, welfare, and safety.

If you believe it is important document sensitive subject matter, use general or coded language. Below are a few examples of ways to communicate this information:

  • Student reported extenuating circumstances related to his academic progress this term.
  • Student discussed a difficult situation and requested help from a campus support service.
  • Student disclosed a personal situation that is having an impact on how things are going this semester.

Specific Ways to Document a Student Interaction

informal discussion

Report/Appointment Summary

Summary reports allow you to document interactions with a student, whether the appointment was scheduled, a walk-in, or the student was a no show. Appointment Summary Reports should only include information related to that specific appointment.

Privacy: This report is hidden from student view, but other faculty and staff within the same care unit are able to see these reports. However, please keep in mind that any information you enter pertaining to a student becomes part of their official student record and may be subpoenaed by that student, as outlined in FERPA.


Notes offer an additional mechanism to jot down information about a student and collaborate across Care Units. Notes allow faculty and staff to document any important information about a student that should be visible to anyone working with the student. Notes are not restricted to specific Care Units, nor tied to student appointments. Therefore, they are accessible to any staff or faculty in the platform who have permission to view Notes, which currently includes all professional and faculty advisors.

Privacy: Notes can be seen by anyone in the platform. If the student’s name is checked within the note, the student can’t actually see the note.


When submitting a referral, comments can be added to assist the office to which the student is being referred. Once the referral office gets the Alert, a Case is opened, and once it is closed, any final comments can be added to the Case to inform the individual who made the initial referral the outcome of the Case. Please note that depending on the referral office and the nature of the case final comments may be minimal.

Privacy: Comments for Alerts and Cases are only viewable by professional and faculty advisors and are not viewable by students.