What and how should I ask my advisees

What and how should I ask my advisees

What and how should I ask my advisees

To encourage personal growth and independent thinking, Faculty Academic Advisers are suggested to adopt a developmental approach in advising students. That is, when your advisees approach you for help, you have to avoid prescribing them the solutions directly. Sometimes, telling students what to do straight away might discourage self-reflection and decision making. You can be a sympathetic listener and offer them possible solutions. Try to ask them some open-ended questions and listen to their responses! Here are some examples:


A first-year student is considering taking an advanced course in Biology.

Prescriptive Response: “You should not take this course since it is for those who have very strong background in Biology”
Developmental Response: “It is an advanced class in Biology. How strong is your background in Biology?” or “Based on your background in Biology, which class options do you think as the best fit for you?”


A student enjoys literature and would like to be a writer, but her parents want her to study business. She thinks that she should follow her parents’ advice.

Prescriptive Response: “This is your life, not your parents. You should pursue your own wills.”
Developmental Response: “How do you usually decide on things when you and your parents have different opinions?”


A student only gets a GPA of 1.2. She is currently involved in a lot of activities such as sports, drama, hall committee, etc.

Prescriptive Response: “I think you should cut some of your activities, otherwise, you will not survive your studies.”
Developmental Response: “You seem to enjoy being involved in many activities. How do you balance studies and activities? Have you experienced any conflicts?

Some students who receive unsatisfactory GPA find that they have to make tough choices of giving up some other activities they love. What do you think? “

As you can see, a good open-ended question can usually help your advisees think about their personal situations and possible options. Some further examples of common open-ended questions include:

  • Why do you think it happened?
  • What do you think is going on?
  • How are you doing in your other courses?
  • What do you think you need to do to improve?

As for discussion topics, here are some suggestions for your consideration:

  • Topics on study life:
    • Study progress
    • Academic strengths and weaknesses
    • Aptitude and interests
    • Factors affecting their course choices
    • Areas for improvement, such as time management, study skills, etc
    • Involvement in extracurricular activities
  • Topics on goal setting and future planning:
    • How your advisees visualize their future careers and personal lives
    • The steps needed to achieve their goals
    • How these steps relate to the programmes/courses they are studying
  • Topics on policies and procedures:
    • Policies and procedures of the University
    • The degree requirements of your advisees
    • Important dates and deadlines