Academic advising requires strong communication skills to forge reciprocal relationships with students. A monologue of instructions, tips, and anecdotes, no matter how well-intentioned or entertaining, will not help the academic advisor understand what the student’s plans and goals are or if progress if being made toward graduation. The expectation is not that academic advisors need to be warm, fuzzy, and gregarious people who only give students positive feedback. An academic advisor does not need to change his or her personality, but the academic advisor can learn to pay attention to what the student is communicating non-verbally, actively listen to the student, and intersperse appropriate probing questions to get the most out of the interaction.
The first step to communicating well with students is to provide a space where the student will feel comfortable and be able to see the advisor. The second step to communicating well is realizing that the academic advisor does not have control over how well the student communicates. The academic advisor can only model effective communication skills so the student may learn to mirror those skills back.
Remember that Non-verbal communication is a crucial component of the dialogue.
Of course it’s important for academic advisors to relay accurate and timely information, but a student will be less likely to complain about a mistake made by the academic advisor uses more open and inviting body language and voice over the academic advisor who uses closed body actions, and a sharp voice.
Active listening is more than hearing what the student says, it is a focused activity that requires concentration and attention, and even a little bit of talking. The first step to active listening is rather obvious – stop talking – at least in the beginning. Maintain good eye contact, move away from distractions, and lean slightly forward to indicate involvement in the conversation. Reinforce the speaker by nodding or paraphrasing what the student said. Do not interrupt, and give the student time to finish what she or he has to say. Clarify by asking questions and then allow the student to answer.
Some questions are probing questions that require the student to dig deeper for a response.
What the Student Wants to Know (5C’s)
Students tend to have specific questions that they want answered during the academic advising interaction. Oftentimes, student questions revolve around the 5 C’s:
Students want to know what courses to take, how to connect to people and activities on campus, what career to pursue, how easy or difficult the academic journey will be, and may express frustration about how confusing it is to answer those questions.
What the Academic Advisor Wants to Know (WH4Y)
Academic advisors want to ask more general questions about the student and his or her plans. Oftentimes, academic advisor questions revolve around WH4Y:
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