Communicating with Your Advising Group: Challenges and Solutions
You are expected to stay in regular contact with your advisees throughout the academic year.There is no single way of overcoming communication challenges and maintaining regular contact with your advisees. You will need to develop your own schedule and stick to it. We recommend that you contact your freshmen at least every 3 weeks and that you keep the freshman advisor involved with your interactions throughout the term.
Communication Challenges and Solutions
Consider the following examples of the communication challenges that associate advisors have faced in the past, along with our recommendations for how to overcome them:
Your advisees don't respond to your emails:
- Be direct about expressing your concern regarding their unresponsiveness by asking: “ You have not replied to any of my emails. Are you okay?”
- Text message or use Facebook to communicate: “What have you been up to lately? I was thinking about you and wondering how your classes are going this term."
- Invite them, even personalize emails, to a social activity (food!) over the weekend: "I'm trying to get our advising group together for next weekend. I'm wondering if you would to go to a new restaurant in Central Square. Let me know which day and time would work for you and I'll see what I can arrange with everyone. I hope you'll be able to make it!"
- Find out from the freshman advisor if s/he has communicated with your advisee.
- Consider the possibility that everything is fine, but that they are simply not interested in being part of advising group activities. You have done your part!
You find it difficult to transition from small talk to serious conversation about personal and academic issues:
- Talk about your own struggles as a freshman. It can be awkward discussing personal issues with someone you do not know well, but if you share some of your experiences, your advisees may be more comfortable sharing theirs.
- Be direct, but specific. Ask probing questions such as: “Did you have a tough time with that last problem set? A friend of mine said it was really difficult.”
- Combine the first two suggestions. Share a personal story followed by a direct question, “Have you ever felt that way or experienced that?”
- Allow your advisees to take the lead. If they are interested in serious conversation, they will let you know. Otherwise, enjoy the small talk!
It is difficult to get the conversation started during social activities.
- Play a game or use an icebreaker. It might seem silly when you suggest it, but icebreakers and games can break up the social tension and jump start conversation.
- Ask your advisees questions that invite responses. People usually enjoy sharing opinions and talking about themselves.
- Look for common interests by talking about activities of interests to you (sports, movies, TV, etc).
- Accept that group dynamics can vary and that every group may not gel. Be satisfied that you did your best!
Your advisee does not open up to your about underlying issues s/he is experiencing.
- You do not need to pry if your advisee is unwilling to speak openly about issues contributing to academic difficulties.
- Inform them about MIT resources to help them succeed such as: tutoring, study groups, and staff in Student Support Services.
The freshman advisor with whom you work does not include you in his/her communication with your advisees.
- Find out what his/her expectations are of you since every advisor has an individual style.
- Take the initiative. Make an appointment to meet with the advisor regularly to check-in with each other and to discuss your advisees.
- Don't assume that the advisor is deliberately leaving you out. S/he might be very busy and not always able to stay in contact with you.
- Develop your own relationship with your advisees. Your student perspective and peer advice is invaluable to freshmen!
- Organize a get together with your advisees for an MIT event such as a lecture series, sporting event, student group performance, etc. Check the events calendar to see what is happening on campus.
- Check in with advisees every few weeks to provide help and resources on time management, test taking and study skills.
- Help advisees with choice of major issues and with their search for UROPs, IAP activities, and summer employment.
- Send reminders on important deadlines and ask them to regularly check the First Year site for updates, news, and information that is relevant to their freshman year.
Communication is not always easy, so be proactive and make an effort to stay in contact with your advising group. Check out the Effective Communication page, for tips, strategies, and advice on how to communicate effectively.