University of California, Riverside

Student Academic Information Systems

Advising Tips & Techniques

Advisors assist and guide students in understanding and following the university rules, regulations, policies, and procedures. The following document offers best practices and resources for academic advisors in their interactions with students.

General Advising Techniques

  • Expectations: Don't expect that the student has read the Course Catalog and thus "should know" the university policies. Advisors clarify and explain how the policies apply to the individual student. Your role is to guide the student and teach him or her how to interpret the guidelines.
  • Communicate Clearly And Calmly: In meeting with students it is important to establish a clear line of communication. Students need to feel welcomed so that they can feel comfortable in clearly addressing issues relating to their education. Once a student has explained his or her need, confirm that you clearly understand the issue by reiterating it, and then begin to walk the student through the process of resolving the matter.
  • Personalize By Asking Questions: Personalize the advising session by reviewing the student's academic file and making appropriate updates and notes. Ask questions of the student to clarify issues that may arise, this is an opportunity for the advisor to address other potential concerns. Look at the transcript for patterns: dramatic drop in grades from high school to college or one quarter the next, excelling in some subject matters while struggling in others.
  • Listen With An Open Mind: Take time to listen to the student's needs with an open mind. Ask questions to determine career goals, provide advice on choosing a major, courses, educational opportunities outside of the classroom: undergraduate research, education abroad, internships, etc.
  • Use Open Ended Questions: Use non-leading, open ended questions like
    • What
    • How
    • When
    • Tell me more about
  • Review The Record: Review the student's educational plan and transcript record to determine possible causes of academic difficulty, such as:
    • Learning Style - Need assistance in adjusting to college life, selecting the right major, major identifying learning disabilities
    • Study Skills - Need support in developing study skills, understanding how he or she learns
    • Life Circumstances - Commuting student, needs to work, family issues, drugs, emotional issues etc.
    • Personal choices - lack of interest in school, too much spent having fun, too many extra curricular activities, too many classes, unbalanced curriculum
  • Inform About Resolutions: Let the student know that there is resolution for his or her problem and that you are there to help guide the student through the process. Ask the student what steps he or she has taken to address the issue and help the student develop a plan of action.
  • Summarize And Encourage: When advising, communicate clearly to the student; make sure to review what has been discussed before the student leaves the office. Encourage the student to write down important deadlines, form/petition names, names & locations of people that they may need to follow up with, etc. It is important that a student is clear on what steps he or she must take.
  • Make Yourself Available: Provide the student with your business card and encourage the student to call or email you if they have additional questions.
  • Maintain Detailed Notes: Keep detailed notes of what was discussed and recommendations that were made.
  • Know Your Colleagues: Get to know colleagues in other offices that you can call to get advice, or give them a heads up on what has been discussed with the student and the reason you are recommending that he or she seek more specialized support. Be cautious in discussing confidential conversations that you have had with the student in your office.
  • Draw The Line: Know when to draw the line on friendship. Students should feel comfortable to share personal things, but know when the personal things require more specialized support (i.e., professional Counseling)
  • Be Aware of Resources: Be knowledgeable about campus resources to support student success - Make the advising session an opportunity to teach the student about informational resources and how they can be more proactive. A list of important resources follows.

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Resource Links

Academic Support

Cultural Factors

Peer Counseling

Financial Issues

Relationship Issues

Residence/Transportation Problems

Personal Choice

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More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Student Academic Information Systems
Computing & Communications Bldg.

Tel: (951) 827-3555
Fax: (951) 827-4541