Center for Excellence in Academic Advising
Effective Communication Skills
Effective communication skills are essential for advisors. Providing information in a meaningful
way serves as a basis for decisions which can have a profound influence on a student's entire life.
Advisees are not simply deciding what courses they will take or what they will major in; they are
also deciding, if only indirectly, their futures.
Adapted from the NACADA Faculty Advising Training Program
- Listen carefully and check your understanding by paraphrasing what advisees have said or by asking a question. Ask yourself whether advisees have asked the right questions. Too often, the correct answer is given by advisors--but the wrong question was asked by students, and communication fails.
- Use open-ended questions and similar techniques that enable you to discuss topics with advisees
rather than allowing only yes or no responses.
- Discuss with your advisees their backgrounds and experiences, progress on their goals, and future
plans. Such a discussion will provide you with helpful information, and it will reflect your
concern for advisees as individuals.
- Most communications have both an intellectual and an emotional component. Listen for the
emotional message. If the emotional part of the message seems to be out of proportion or
inconsistent with the intellectual part, you may need to examine this discrepancy before a rational
decision can be made.
- Always keep notes about what decisions have been made and why. A quick review before seeing
students again will help you recall specific details. This is an important way to demonstrate your
interest in students as individuals.
- The more effective approaches to academic advising go beyond informing and begin to involve
some counseling skills including helping and empowering.
- Respect your advisees as people and show them that you respect them. One way to do this is to
make a sincere effort to do an effective job of your advising.
- Encourage informed decision-making of your advisees. They are adults, and, more importantly,
they must live with their decisions.
- Respecting advisees does not mean that advisors must agree with all of their decisions. The
advisor role is to help them make realistic decisions. If advisors have reason to believe that
students will fail or are making a poor choice, they should honestly discuss this perception with
- Know enough to recognize when one of your advisees needs help beyond your capability and
know how to make a referral.
- Be available; you cannot provide even the basics to an advisee if the advisee cannot find you.