Components of an Effective Appointment

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  • 1. Focus on the appointment and ask questions

    Advising appointments typically happen during busy days within busy weeks. It’s easy to want to rush an appointment along to get to other “more important” work. But advising appointments are often of great importance to students as they make choices and come to understand their university, education, and larger lives. Taking a deep breath, putting other concerns aside, and focusing on the appointment helps all involved feel valued and heard. In addition, if both advisors and advisees make it a habit to ask questions — especially "Why" questions — the appointment will undoubtedly grow in value. Simply asking "Why?" after "I’m thinking about declaring ___ major" creates an opportunity to explore the decision-making process, expose potential myths about this or other majors, and generate some discussion about the ramifications of such choices. Why questions are particularly valuable for advisors and advisees.

  • 2. Update one another on what’s going on in and beyond the classroom

    Taking just a minute to discuss the things going on in one another’s lives can be a nice way to help focus the meeting and get to know one another. Discussing how courses are going, favorite subject areas, research interests, and even some personal details can help advisors and advisees build trust and rapport.

  • 3. Review GradTracker together to assess progress toward graduation

    GradTracker is a wonderful tool for advisors and advisees. Beginning at the top and working down together allows the advisor and advisee both, each semester, to see things like: How is the student’s GPA holding up? How many units are still needed prior to graduation? (REMEMBER: Every student MUST earn 35 units prior to graduation.) What general education requirements are yet to be met? What courses are still needed to complete a major? In addition, advisors and advisees can use the "What If" feature to generate lists of courses required for a prospective major, minor, or concentration (including showing the student’s progress thus far toward meeting those requirements), thereby providing the opportunity for an informed conversation about the alternatives.

  • 4. Discuss choices of and within the major/minor

    Undeclared students often have many questions and concerns as they look to choose a major and/or minor. With tools like GradTracker and department websites, advisors and advisees can have good conversations about the options available at Richmond, the student’s interests and abilities, pressures from outside sources (like family members, peer groups, and the economy), and myths or stereotypes students might have about particular majors. Openness and a willingness to explore are valuable here.

    Once students have declared majors there are still plenty of decisions to be made. Are there elective courses to choose? Is there a progression of courses that is either necessary or ideal? Are there co-curricular programs that go well with a major? Are there research opportunities, honors programs, or even "non-course-based" readings that might be valuable? Might there be a minor or concentration that fits well with the major and the student’s interests? How might study abroad fit in the major? These and other such questions are worth considering when major advisors meet with their declared advisees.

  • 5. Map all remaining requirements to see how they fit in the coming semesters

    Spending a few minutes each semester looking at all remaining requirements and how they fit within the space available can help students make the best use of their college years. Literally listing out the remaining semesters and placing within each at least the area of the courses if not the courses themselves can be especially helpful.

    Sample: A review of GradTracker shows an advisee still needs 6 courses and a senior seminar to complete the major, two courses to complete the minor, two general educations courses, and one Wellness course to graduate. In addition, the student needs 16 units to graduate. Laying this all out (as below) allows the advisee a sense of what’s to come, and it shows the "open" space in the schedule, encouraging discussion about "best options" for course choices. Such a discussion might include the possibility of studying abroad (either during the school year or during the summer), pursuing an internship or research with a faculty member, open elective courses of particular value or interest, etc.

    Fall Spring Fall Spring
    Major course Major course Major course Senior seminar
    Major course Major course Major course Any elective
    Gen Ed Gen Ed Minor course Any elective
    Any elective Minor course Any elective Any elective
    Wellness 101
  • 6. Consider co-curricular and social opportunities and their potential value/role/impact/appeal

    The majority of time during the college years is spent outside the classroom, so student choices about how to spend that time are of great significance. Discussing and encouraging attendance at arts events, speakers, athletic events, and other such campus activities can be valuable. It can also be worthwhile to examine options like participation (but not OVER-participation) in clubs or organizations, internships, study abroad, research, civic engagement, living and learning programs, Career Services programs, etc.

  • 7. Discuss long-term goals and plans (educational, professional, personal)

    Although students are often uncertain about their long-term professional plans, many already have a sense of the kind of life they’d like to live, the types of careers that interest them, and even the parts of country where they’d like to live. A conversation about how choices made during college can help shape opportunities later (e.g., how an internship now might help secure a job in a chosen career area) can be helpful. Most of us work our ways along in life without a clear path or plan, encountering many surprises along the way, so clearly the intent of this conversation is mostly just to help advisees keep in mind that choices do guide us in different directions, and that includes choices made during the college years.

  • 8. Plan courses for the upcoming semester

    This may be the easy part of the meeting, since following this process for a few semesters can mean having a sense even before the meeting of what courses (or at least what kinds of courses) students are likely to be taking each semester.

  • 9. Identify appropriate resources for answering unanswered questions or addressing concerns

    Although neither individual advisors or advisees have all the answers, the resources are here somewhere to help find answers to any questions or concerns that may arise. An advisor may be more familiar with the university, and may therefore be better able to point students to appropriate resources. Or, of course, advisors or advisees can always contact the AARC staff and we can try and help point you in the right direction.

  • 10. Talk about anything else that comes to mind and mention your next meeting/contact

    Sometimes an advisee has something on her/his mind that hasn’t come up yet during the meeting. Taking a moment to ask, "Is there anything else?" can allow the opportunity for that concern to arise. If there’s nothing else, mention when you’ll likely be in contact again and be sure to pay attention to e-mails from one another.