Center for Excellence in Academic Advising
Making Effective Referrals
In academic advising we depend a great deal on faculty and staff in other departments to help us
serve our advisees. But we also know the frustration of trying to help students make effective
contacts in other departments and seeing our attempts fail. Here is a set of tips on making
effective referrals, tips that can result in a higher success rate in this area:
Roundy, J. (1992, April). Tips on making effective referrals in academic advising. Academic
Advising News, Vol. XIV, No. 2, pp. 2, 10.
- Inform yourself of campus resources thoroughly, paying particular attention to the names
of contact people and the chain of command in various offices.
- Keep a list of names, offices, and telephone numbers at hand for quick reference.
- When talking with students, pay particular attention to their expressed and implied needs.
Often students won't ask to be referred for help, but they very much need referral.
- Students are often uneasy about following through with a referral. Try to make them
comfortable with the idea, pointing out the friendliness, accessibility, and helpfulness of
the people you are sending them to. This task can be crucial in the case of faculty and
upper-level administrator referees, since students often find these people intimidating.
- Try to keep the chain of referrals as simple as possible. Often students will have to visit
several offices to complete referral procedures. Help students reduce the runaround by
finding ways to eliminate steps. Also, work out with students a proper sequence of steps,
so that they don't have to backtrack to accomplish their ends.
- Help students draw up agendas for referrals. Have them jot down crucial questions and
procedures for getting the most of their visits with the people to whom you send them.
- Facilitate referrals by telephoning the parties to whom you are sending students while
those students are with you. Telephoning can be helpful in two ways: it can help you to
be sure that you are sending students to the right people for help, and it can give you the
opportunity to make an appointment for the students on the spot, which will dramatically
improve the contact rate for referrals. In fact, a good strategy for referrals is to make
telephone calls and then hand the receiver to your students, encouraging them to set up
- When you make referrals, jot down notes in your advising files that will remind you to ask
students on their next visit about the results of their contacts. If students report that they
haven't followed through, find out why not, and discuss the reasons. See if you should
make a different referral, or if you need to become more involved in ensuring contact.
Don't take the process over from your students, however, since it is their responsibility to
see that their needs are met.
- Check your records every so often to get a sense of the referrals you have made. Student
development is an ongoing process, and patterns of need and growth can be observed in
the sequence of referrals you have made. Need for further direction can often be
discovered in the referrals you have already made.