Having productive and meaningful check-in meetings with your individual advisees may be approached in a 4 part framework:
- Follow up
Interactions with your advisees should be fluid, not static. It’s often good to go with the flow. Still, some structure ensures that the interaction is relevant and informative for your advisee. If any of these steps are skipped, the interaction is weakened. Following a sequence of steps creates a foundation that you can build upon for future interactions.
Preparation for the interaction begins with setting up a time to meet in a mutually agreed upon space that is comfortable for both you and your advisee. Your advisor will likely initiate these meetings, but check with them about their plans. Does your advisor want to meet 1:1 with the advisees and have you follow with them separately or meet jointly?
Since your students have never met with a college advisor, they may not know what to expect. If your check-ind with advisees is separate from your advisor, you should explain the purpose of the meeting over email, as a way to get to know one another, listen to any concerns that they may have, and to answer questions. Let them know how long the meeting will be (15-30 minutes) and that it will informal. For example, some students in the past have asked if they need to prepare for the meeting.
If you have a good memory, you will recall some of the details of your previous interactions. Still, taking some notes shortly after your meeting can be extremely useful. When you remember specific details about an advisee’s life or academics, you send the message that you care. For example, you may want to remember:
- Where they are from
- What is their family is like
- If they have a pet
- What classes are they taking
- The major they are considering
- Extracurricular activities
Notes will provide you with a point of reference for follow up and contribute to meaningful conversations.
Prepare, Listen and Observe
Individual advising meetings, though casual, should be intentional with some structure. When you adapt your approach to fit each student’s personality and needs, avoiding assumptions based on background or first impressions, you create a comfortable atmosphere for your advisees. For example, if an advisee is very quiet or serious, you would want to avoid joking too much or being ‘extra’. You may want to slow down your speech to come across more approachable. On the flip side, some advisees will be super outgoing and open from the beginning, and will enjoy when you match their enthusiasm.
Asking questions and listening intently is one of the best ways to get to know your advisees. As a rule, it’s always better to listen than to talk, especially when you are building a relationship. We all enjoy talking about ourselves, but it’s important to give students space to express themselves without being interrupted.
Pauses or silences in a conversation can be awkward at times, but can also be effective in getting your advisees to open up to you. So, resist the urge to offer advice during these opportunities.
Some students will answer your questions with a yes/no, or few words. For example, when you ask them how they are doing, they respond with ‘Good’. Maybe they are shy, are not comfortable with you yet, or are ashamed to admit they are not ‘good’.
You can try to draw them out by asking open-ended questions:
Rather than “Do you like your professors?”
Ask, “Who is your favorite professor and why?”
Instead of “Are you going to take a PE this quarter?”
Ask, “What PE classes interest you?”
Rather than “Are you finding your Physics class difficult?”
Ask, “Which class do you find the most difficult?”
The purpose of having 1-2 goals in mind is to build upon for each subsequent meeting. If every conversation that you have with them is the same, then you are not building a relationship nor are you helping your advisees to grow. Goals can be around time management, self-care, classes, p-sets, extracurricular and socializing. Goals even when simple and small, provide motivation and accountability. When you conclude your meeting, you can casually summarize the next steps that you discussed and let them know you will be asking them about it.
“It’s important that you pset with others. You can contact academic administrator of the department of this class to connect you to a study or pset group. I’d love to hear how this works out, so please send me an email to let me know.”
“Try to make one new friend in the next few weeks and I will ask you about it when we meet next time.”
4. Follow Up
Let your advisees know that your outreach and communication with them will be ongoing. You may want to ask their preference of when and how you should follow up. “Do you want to meet again in a few weeks, or do you prefer that we communicate another way?” When a student knows that someone is going to check on them consistently, they feel supported.
Check-in meetings should be coordinated with your advisor so that they can decide whether you will be following up with your advisees together or separately. Add your plans to your calendar/schedule so that you don’t forget.