Here are a few simple techniques advisors can use to build effective advising relationships.
1) Learn your advisees’ names, and use them when you talk to them. If someone never calls you by name, you are apt to suspect that he or she cannot recall exactly who you are.
2) Go over with your advisees what they should expect from you and what you expect from them at an early meeting. This handbook contains an abbreviated list of advisor and advisee responsibilities that you may want to copy and use as a basis for discussion.
3) Take a few moments to engage in general conversation whenever an advisee comes to see you. Smile. Make eye contact. Ask how things are going. The student may be looking for an opportunity to bring up something difficult to address immediately.
4) Do not be too efficient in dealing with the issues your advisees bring to you; students may gain the impression that you are eager to be rid of them. Make a few confidential notes for your file after each visit with an advisee. What were the issues discussed? What follow-up is needed? Did you refer the student to any other campus services or suggest some specific action? Review the file that you keep on each advisee just prior to the student’s next visit. Ask whether the issue discussed during the previous visit was resolved. Ask if the student actually followed through on any referrals you made.
5) Education records are kept by University offices to facilitate the educational development of students. Faculty and staff members may also keep informal records relating to their functional responsibilities with individual students. A Federal law, the Family Educational Rights And Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (FERPA), also known as the Buckley Amendment, affords students certain rights concerning their education records. Students have the right to have some control over the disclosure of information from their records. Educational institutions have the responsibility to prevent improper disclosure of personally identifiable information from the records.
6) Take full advantage of First Class as an advising aid. Make sure that all your advisees have a First Class account. Even those who do not live on campus can arrange to access First Class from home, and those without computers can access First Class from the campus clusters. E-mail is often the most effective way for you to contact advisees who seem impossible to reach any other way. Some students find it easier, as well as more convenient, to “approach” their advisors by e-mail rather than in person. However, be careful to use e-mail as a supplement to, not as a substitute for, in-person meetings.
7) Be a pro-active advisor. Students who do not contact their advisors often are not those who need little advice; they are likely to be those whose relationship to the University is dysfunctional. Particularly during the first year of college, failure to meet with an advisor is apt to be a sign of impending or current difficulty rather than of mature self-reliance. Advisors should go after these individuals by phone, by e-mail, by a hand written note. Engaging them in a dialogue about their University experiences is an essential first step to progress.
8) Any student appearing to be experiencing some struggles, small or large, should be referred to meet with an advocate in Student Affairs. These professionals can help the student’s access services available and facilitate solutions.