In 1998, the Florida State University Provost, Lawrence Abele, launched a strategic initiative to address the first to second year retention rate at the university.  At that time, approximately 15% of the freshman class did not return for their second year of college.  Convening a committee of campus leaders and activating an ambitious agenda, a goal was established to increase that number to 90%.

Through collective efforts, this group identified several student-centered initiatives that have become the hallmark of the Florida State University campus culture.  Among those initiatives, Advising First, a network of academic advisors within the Division of Undergraduate Studies was launched in 2001 to provide a consistent delivery of advising services. Since the program’s inception, the Advising First network has increased from 6 to over 60 professionals placed in 21 sites across campus. During this same period of growth, the university’s retention rate has increased from 85.8% to 92.7% and the graduation rate has increased from 68% to 79%. Throughout this period, several campus programs were instituted including a university mapping program, a tutoring center, Freshman Interest Groups and a course designed for probationary students. Academic advising has served as a critical force in connecting students to these initiatives, and remains a cornerstone of student success initiatives at Florida State.

In addition to the 42 advisors placed in 20 sites across campus, Advising First also has three main Centers designed to meet the needs of specific student groups.

In 2005, the Advising First Center for Exploratory Studentswas launched to provide specialized support to undecided students and in 2009 the Center for Success Coaching was founded to deliver academic and personal coaching to students from populations identified to be vulnerable for attrition. In 2012, the Center for Academic Planning was launched to support incoming transfer students and students in need of specialized academic "re-vising" support.

Advising First has received accolades for innovative work and a documented impact on retention. In 2013, Advising First was recognized by the APLU with the MVP (Most Visible Progress) Trailblazer Exemplary Program Award, and in 2011 the National Academic Advising Association recognized Advising First as an Outstanding Advising Program, the association’s highest program recognition. Team members are actively involved in the association and are regular presenters at state, regional and national conferences. Advising First has contributed to Florida State's first-to-second-year retention rate increase to 94 percent, establishing the university as a leader among public institutions in improving retention.