It is normal to find a particular group of non-responsive students who do not respond to advisers’ invitations or feel uncomfortable to seek advice from teachers. Although the reasons may vary based on different factors such as advising policy and culture, institutional culture, and academic policy (Nelson, 2013; Harding, 2008; Gordon, 2007), we can look into these students’ needs and concerns before approaching them.

Possible reasons for not responding

They are “all-knowing” and they have already obtained the information from different channels, such as peers, and/or online sources.

They do not know what they can discuss with an adviser because they do not know his/her role and what he/she can help them.

They are already busy with classes, assignments, and/or other learning activities.

They feel intimidated to see a “Professor” and/or they have poor previous experiences.

But what worries advisers most is that

They do not want to talk about their study issues – an early sign of avoidance.

Show You Care

Sending a customized email may help to show your concern and solicit a response from the advisee(s). Timing is important. Send your email when your students need to make important academic decisions. Students would have higher motivation to respond to adviser’ invitations during some key periods, such as release of grades, course selection, add/drop period, major/minor selection.

How to draft an effective advising email?

The email should include an impressive subject line, student-centered and student-friendly content, and 1-2 call-to-action item(s). (Education Advisory Board, 2017; Leek, 2016). You are adding values and connecting with your students in your advising email, rather than just providing policy and guideline to them (Ohrablo, 2018; Grites, Miller & Voler, 2016; Leek, 2016). Below are some tips.

  • You can include your student’s name in the subject line, and let the student know it is not a spam email.
  • The email content and tone should focus on your students’ current academic status and their goals, not rules and policies. For example
    • Keep it short. If you would like to give more advice to the students, you can highlight the most urgent issue and invite them to visit you in your office hours.
    • Use more “I” sentence and write your content in the “active voice”. These can make your message more personal.
    • Beware of the usage of “jargons” especially for new students, e.g. “double-counted courses”, “prerequisite”. You can translate them to readable phrases, e.g. “courses that are allowed to fulfill overlapping requirements”, “require to study in advance”.
    • Include one to two call-to-action item(s) in your email. Use action verbs that will create a sense of urgency to the students, e.g. “reply”, “submit”, “complete”, etc.

Education Advisory Board (2017). Breaking Through the Student Communications Barrier. Retrieved from

Gordon, V. N. (2007). The undecided college student: An academic and career advising challenge (3rd ed.). Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas.

Grites, T. J., Miller, M. A., & Voler, J. G. (2016). Beyond foundations: Developing as a master academic advisor. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Harding, B. (2008). Students with specific advising needs. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed.; pp. 189–203). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Leek, D. (2016). Using Email for Appreciative Advising. Fall Academic Advising Conference. Holland, MI.

Nelson, M.J. (2013). The Unreachable Student: Techniques and Strategies to Increase the Influence of Academic Advising. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal, 15. Retrieved from

Ohrablo, S. (2018). High-impact advising: A guide for academic advisors. Denver, CO: Academic Impressions.