Building the Advising Relationship
Are you unsure about how to build the associate advisor/ advisee relationship? Your advisees are likely unsure as well about how to make a personal connection with you. Freshmen value your upper class student knowledge, advice, and experience, but may be hesitant to impose on your time. Maybe you are also unsure about how to open up the conversation with your advisees beyond helping them select their classes or giving them information on the various majors and Institute requirements.
When you meet with your advisees, is it hard to engage them in conversation? Do you ask a lot of questions but get one word replies? Learning to ask questions that require thoughtful responses are critical to building a relationship with your advisees. As an effective associate advisor, you need to be able to take the conversation beyond discussion of which classes to take to focus more broadly on the students’ academic, career, and personal goals. Here are some guides to building the advising relationship.
Be Approachable/ Be Available
Freshmen may be unsure of what your exact role is in the advising process. Explain to your advisees how you complement the work of the advisor and though you cannot sign forms, you can give useful advice.
- Be welcoming, even if you see one of your advisees in between classes. Let the student know your availability and how you can be helpful to them during their first year.
- Let your advisees know that, while you are busy, you do have time to see them. Let them know the best ways to reach you. Can you give them your cell phone? Let them know when you are free from classes or other activities.
- It is especially important to let your advisees know that you would like to meet with them around critical times on the academic calendar, e.g., Registration Day, Add and Drop Dates.
Set Regular Meetings
Although there is no policy regulating the number of associate advisor/advisee meetings, you are encouraged to meet with your advisees about twice per term, on Registration and before end of term. You should work with your advisor to be part of the meetings s/he has set up with your advisees, and additionally find opportunities to meet student to student. Here are some important times to meet:
- Registration Day for brief introduction and to assist your advisor with their registration.
- Just before Add Date (5th week of term), to ensure that students are correctly registered and to evaluate their progress to date. If intervention is needed, there is still time for students struggling academically to make use of resources to improve performance or to drop the subject now.
- Mid-semester. This is also a good point in the term for you and the fresham to spend some time discussing the student’s interests and goals, whether the student is happy in the major, and whether there are issues beyond academics that might require referrals to Institute resources such as Student Support Services.
- 8th week of the term, which is two weeks before Drop Date. If you meet with a student at the 8th week, the student should have a clear sense of his/her performance. If a student is clearly struggling in one or more subjects, there is time to drop the subject before s/he winds up failing one or more subjects.
Read more about helping students who are struggling with their academics in Advice for Students with Academic Problems.
Get to Know Your Advisee
Here are some important discussion topics that will help you get to know and understand your advisee:
- Talk about your role as an associate advisor and what you expect of the student as an advisee. For example, let your advisee know that you will be communicating with him/her regularly via e-mail and that you expect prompt responses when s/he receives it. Let the student know that the advising relationship is a mutual one. The student also need to take responsibility for communicating with and reaching out to you if there are problems.
- What is the student’s expectation of your advising role? Ask how you as the student’s associate advisor can help him/her most:
- MIT or departmental policies and procedures
- Scheduling and selection of classes
- Career guidance
- Problems—personal, academic
- Information: Is the student aware of the resources available to him or her? (tutoring, counseling, career planning, study abroad or other global opportunities)
- Provide each advisee with your contact information. Hand out a written sheet your name, phone number(s) , e-mail, residence hall and room number.
- Why did the student choose MIT? Ask your advisee what it was about MIT that was so compelling. Whose decision was it to apply and come to MIT? What other schools did s/he apply to?
- What major is the student considering and why? Is it because of interest in the department’s area of study? Because s/he thinks it will lead to a high-paying or prestigious job?
- Time Management and Study Skills: Does the student feel s/he’s learned to balance her academic and social lives. Encourage students to look at the Learning to Learn website for information about how to manage their time and how to study effectively at MIT.
- Extracurriculars: What other activities besides classes will the student be participating in (e.g, varsity sports, drama, orchestra or performance group, a cappella group, newspaper, church or Bible study, fraternity, sorority or ILG membership, etc.)?
- Where is the student living? Is the student sharing a room? Is s/he happy in this living situation? If the student is unhappy or having roommate problems, encourage going to see the Graduate Resident Tutor or dormitory Housemaster.
- Where is the student doing his homework? What impact does her/his housing arrangement have on his ability to focus/concentrate on schoolwork? If it’s a problem, where else might the student go? (e.g., library, Reading Room in Student Center, study lounge in dorm or living group, etc.)