Advising Fundamentals: Communicating with Freshmen
Communication skills are essential for successful advising. Providing information in a meaningful and clear way to your advisees and actively listening serves as a basis for their decisions. How you communicate with your advisees can have a profound influence on a freshman's entire life.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Allow your advisees or other freshmen to tell their story first; do not interrupt their sentences, offer advice, or give suggestions (unless asked to).
- Keep similar feelings or problems from your own experience to a minimum and try not to give the impression that you want to jump right in and talk.
- Appreciate the emotion, voice intonation, and body language behind words. While this is not possible through email, it is more obvious face to face.
- Establish consistent eye contact and use affirmative head nods. Avoid nervous or bored gestures and fight off external distractions.
- Listen carefully and check your understanding. Paraphrasing what someone has said or asking a question can help clarify meaning and determine that you're on the same page.
- Ask open-ended questions that enable you to discuss topics rather than allowing only "yes" or "no" responses.
- Talk about their backgrounds and experiences and get to know their interests, as well as their academic and career goals.
- Keep notes about your conversations. A quick review before seeing students again will help you recall specific details. This is another important way to demonstrate your interest in them as individuals.
In addition, remember:
- Respecting advisees does not mean that you must agree with all of their decisions. Your role is to help them make good decisions.
- Don't make decisions for your advisees. Rather, encourage them to use the appropriate resources to make smart decisions to solve problems they may encounter.
Read more on the Active Listening page, to understand effective communication with your advisees.
Sources: Adapted from: mediation@MIT and the National Academic Advising Association