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Communicating with Your Advisees

Below you will find suggestions for using various media to develop and maintain a helping relationship with your advisees. However, regardless of the medium you use, it’s helpful to keep in mind the nature of the relationship. Here are three important types of conversations that you and your advisee are likely to have. Of course, there are more and less appropriate times for each type of conversation, and some advisor/advisee interviews can combine all three:

  1. Those that are nformational—e.g. about policies, procedures, requirements, deadlines, schedule planning, etc.. These are typical during the pre-registration advising session.
  2. Those that are about individual students values, interests, aptitudes, strengths, challenges, adaptation to student life. These are likely to occur early in the advising relationship
  3. Those that are about the student’s future, e.g. goals, career interests, graduate schools, and steps to achieving those future goals. These can occur any time but are likely to take up more of the session as the student approaches graduation.

By Email

Regular emails sent throughout the semester are a great way to remind your advisees that you are available and interested in their progress. You can email your advisees as a group or individually through the Faculty Center:

  • Log in to Faculty Center
  • Sign in with your user name and password
  • From blue menu box at left, select Self-Service
  • Now select Advisement option
  • Select View Advisees Information
  • Now, either click on the Notify All Advisees box at bottom of page or select advisees individuallly in the notify column to the left of each advisee's name, then click on the Notify Selected Advisees box at bottom of page

Use your first communication to welcome your new advisees, and welcome back those returning. Let them know where you are, how best to contact you, what your office hours are, and that you welcome their visits, emails, questions, etc. Remind them that a visit to your office in the early part of the term is likely to be more relaxed than one that occurs immediately prior to registration. Fill them in on any news you have that might affect their academic progress, or other information of interest such as internships opportunities, major club activities, changes in department personnel, new faculty in the major, etc.

Since students are required to contact their advisors before they register for classes, send them an email on the first day of the advising/registration cycle. These dates are posted each semester on the Calendar of Activities & Deadlines published by the Registrar's Office. This can be a really intense time, coming as it does in November (for registration the following spring) and April (for registration for the following summer and fall). During these months the demands of being both a student and instructor may seem overwheliming. The more structured you can make this meeting, the more manageable it's likely to be for you both. In this email, clearly set up your expectations for your advisees to come prepared. Here are some suggested expectations you may want to communicate:

  • Print, review, and bring your DARS report
  • Go over your remaining requirements and note those you expect to tackle next semester
  • Review the online schedule for next semester and build a tentative schedule
  • Make a list of questions
  • Arrive on time, and be aware that there may be a time limit on your session

Another brief email after the registration period is over, and before finals, is a good idea. A suggested topic for that email is to remind students who did not come in to see you during advising/registration dates to do come in now, and to let the others know that you’re available if they have questions or concerns, and to wish them a relaxing break.

Individual Meetings

Initial Meeting between Advisor and Advisee

It’s a good practice to invite a new advisee to meet you before the mandatory pre-registration meeting. It can be an opportunity to say hello, ask where he/she is from, what attracted him/her to HSU and to your program, and find out how things are going so far. It’s also a good opportunity to articulate what your responsibilities as an advisor are, and to let your advisee know what his/her responsibilities are.

Here is an excellent summary of reciprocal responsibilities as formulated by Nancy S. King of Kennesaw State University in a seminar offered by the National Association of Academic Advisors (NACADA):

Advisor Responsibilities

  • Communicate university policies and procedures
  • Help students define and develop realistic goals
  • Match student needs with available resources; make appropriate referrals
  • Assist students with planning programs consistent with their abilities and interests
  • Discuss linkage between academic preparation and careers

Advisee Responsibilities

  • Gather all relevant decision-making information
  • Clarify personal values and goals
  • Become knowledgeable about college programs, policies, and procedures
  • Be an active learner by participating fully in the advising experience
  • Ask questions if you do not understand an issue or have a concern
  • Accept responsibility for decisions

Pre-registration Advising Session

The meeting occurs during this session is likely to be more business-like—it’s nature prescribed by the amount of students you need to see, and the practical matter at hand: helping students to prepare their schedule for the coming term. As mentioned in the “Email” section above, it’s a good idea to send out a precise email, spelling out what your students need to do to prepare for the meeting. Below is a sample outline of how such a meeting might flow.


  1. Set aside a defined amount of time to work individually with each advisee.
  2. Have students come prepared with a copy of their latest DARS report and/or degree check, and a tentative schedule for approximately 15 units.

Sample Session:

  1. Greet student, and ask how the current semester is going.
  2. Discuss academic concerns, does student need to consider dropping a class before the final deadline, seek help from the Learning or Writing Center, or info from the Career Center? Be liberal with referrals; use the campus community as a resource.
  3. Together, review students’ degree check or DARS. Using these tools, summarize program as a whole (total units, GE, DCG, Inst, major, GWPE).
  4. Check for areas of special concern. Remember that unfinished remedial courses are mandatory, and the new Basic Subject and math 60 unit completion deadline. Does this student need a contract to insure he/she finishes this requirement this semester? Point out pre-requisite courses that students should complete early in their major in order to make good progress later.
  5. Has the student earned between 60-90 units, but has no degree check or major contract yet? If time allows, put together the major contract. If time is short, suggest another appointment after the crush of registration advising is over. Encourage the student to pick up the Application for Graduation at the Office of the Registrar, SBS 133, and to apply for graduation with major contract at earliest opportunity.
  6. Identify as many courses as seem appropriate for student to choose from for the coming term considering an appropriate balance between all-university and major requirements. Does it match approximately with student’s tentative schedule?
  7. Consider student’s other obligations (work, family, health) and offer your best counsel on class load, encouraging student to make steady progress but not take more than they can handle.
  8. For the most part, your role is to advise and encourage good choices, but NOT to wrestle with the finer details of each student’s schedule. Students can be expected to fine tune their schedule based on your advice, their program requirements, their personal schedule, and what’s offered.
  9. Summarize: a) good choices for next semester, b) refer to Advising Center if student has questions on all-university requirements or policies that go beyond what you’re confident with c) remind students of your availability at a later date to discuss issues that exceed the time limit for this appointment.
  10. Give student his/her registration appointment and access code. Remind him or her to keep checking the on-line schedule for class availability because it changes as the registrations period advances. Remind student to review his/her registration status online, and take care of any holds before their registration appointment.

Group Advising

Individual sessions are great when the ratio of advisor to advisee allows it. Unfortunately, that ratio sometimes grows larger, especially in some of our most popular majors. Given that reality, it is still possible to build a strong advising program using a well thought out and clearly communicated group advising program. Indeed, there are even advantages to this approach over individual advising sessions. Students in one major who are encouraged to regularly come together to discuss aspects of their academic programs, career or internship opportunities, are given the opportunity to bond as a group, and to feel part of a larger community. Here are some ideas and recommendations for building a group advising program:

  • Schedule meetings at least three times a semester so advising doesn’t deteriorate into a mass distribution of registration material during pre-registration advising week. Select appropriate topics to discuss that go beyond issuing basic prescriptions for moving through the major program, or “getting through” GE.
  • Each meeting should be scheduled well in advance, and time, place, and topic communicated to all attendees.
  • Don’t rule out individual meetings. There will always be those that can’t attend the meeting, or who have issues that are better addressed in an individual meeting.
  • Consider having different meetings for different groups. All freshmen, sophomores, etc. for example. Or all students in one major option.
  • Consider using seniors or upper division major club members as peer advisors/student mentors. This can be very effective, offering role models for the beginning students, and pre-professional training for the juniors and seniors.
  • Consider inviting guest speakers to one or two of the meetings from various campus offices (the Career Center, Learning Center, Advising Center, Study Abroad, etc.) or an outstanding scholar or professional in their field.
  • Consider having at least one of the meetings largely social—perhaps the first or last (or both!), including refreshments.

Advising Center
SBS 295 • 1 Harpst St., Arcata, CA 95521 • 707.826.5224 • Contact Us.