Academic Advising
Suggestions for Improving Communication
  • Opening. Greet students by name.  Open with a question like “How are things going?” or “How can I help?”
  • Phrasing questions.  Ask questions that don’t require a yes or no answer.  For example, “What are you thinking about taking next semester?” or “What are some things that have made you think about a career in business?”
  • Listen, don’t out-talk students.  Good advising is effective listening.  Identify shades of feelings behind the words.  Listening shows that one cares, an important complement of advising.
  • Accept students’ attitudes and feelings.  Students may fear that the advisor won’t approve of what they say.  You can acknowledge without approving.  Advisors must convey their acceptance of student feelings and attitudes in a non-judgmental way.  Cardinal principle:  If the student thinks it’s a problem, it’s a problem.
  • Be sensitive to special needs of diverse populations.  Such students may have special needs or may not be familiar with academic behaviors or procedures.  Be open enough to allow students to discuss such problems.
  • Be comfortable with silence:  Most people are embarrassed if no conversation is going on.  If the student appears to be groping for words, you can say, “It’s okay to take a minute to organize your thoughts.”
  • Reflect students’ feelings.  Try to understand what the student is saying.  For example, it is better to say, “You feel that the professor is unfair to you” rather than “Everyone has trouble getting along with professors sometimes.”
  • Admit your ignorance.  If you don’t have the facts, admit it.  Go to your resources for information immediately or call the student back.
  • Set limits on the interview.  It is better if both students and advisors realize that the interview will last for a fixed amount of time.  Give students an idea of your time frame.
  • Ending the meeting.  It’s best to end the advising sessions at the agreed upon time.  You may say, ‘Do you think we have done all we can for today?” or “Let’s make another appointment so that we can go into this further.”

Few experiences in students’ post-secondary career have as much potential for influencing their development as does academic advising.  Through regular contact with students, advisors gain meaningful insights into students’ lives.  Advisors can use these insights to help students feel part of the academic community, develop sound academic and career goals, be successful learners and become dynamic members of the workforce and their community.

Relationship-Based Advising was adapted from the Pennsylvania State University’s Center for Excellence in Academic Advising and Edgecomb Community College “Faculty Advisor’s Handbook.”