Quick Tips for Good Advising

Ethical Principles for Academic Advising

Successful advising can help your students to make informed choices, develop critical thinking, value their educational experience at HKU and excel in their studies. Here are some quick tips for a good advising meeting that each of us can keep in our minds as we work with our students.

1. It's not about you

2. Know their names

3. Be respectful and empathetic

4. Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues

5. Always ask open-ended questions

6. Be Available

7. Set Limits

8. Be familiar with policies and procedures

9. Never guess

10. Embrace technology


We have gained the permission of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) in adopting the contents of Jayne Drake, Martha Hemwall, and Kathy Stockwell. A Faculty Guide to Academic Advising (Kansas: National Academic Advising Association (NACADA, 2009)) when compiling the contents of this website.

Also, the following materials have been consulted:

  • Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. “Academic Advising Handbook”. Available at: http://www.witc.edu/academics/supportsvcs/acadadvise.htm
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Working with Your Advising Group”.
  • Harvard University. A Brief Guide to First-Year Advising 2007-2008.

The developmental approach to academic advising encompasses a holistic perspective and emphasizes progressive stages throughout the student’s university experience. Developmental advising is grounded in theory, such as cognitive development and psychosocial. Hurley (2007) offers 10 suggestions for the practical application of the developmental model when advising students:

  1. Get personal

    Take time to get to know students as individuals before engaging in academic planning.

  2. Practice active listening

    Encourage students to explain or clarify the reasoning behind academic decisions.

  3. Treat advising as an ongoing conversation

    Take good notes and review them before each subsequent advising appointment.

  4. Avoid the temptation to decide

    Advisers can help guide students through the decision making process, but should avoid making decisions for them.

  5. Make silence an ally

    Allow for periods of silence in advising as the student processes new information or ponders how much to disclose.

  6. Challenge misconceptions

    Students may sometimes arrive at decisions without adequate consideration of alternatives, and by challenging them to examine these decisions further, the advisers help them to make more deliberate choices and develop intellectually.

  7. Make students active partners in the advising process

    Students should understand that advising is not simply a body of information to be imparted but an interactive process between adviser and advisee.

  8. Challenge and support

    Students should be encouraged to take increasing responsibility for their own academic planning with varying degrees of advising support over time.

  9. Make meaning out of the curriculum

    When students understand the reasoning behind degree requirements, they often become less resistant and more invested.

  10. Take a holistic approach

    A student’s life beyond the classroom provides the context within which intellectual and academic development occurs, and by being aware of this context, advisers are better able to understand their advisees’ actions and to help them make sound academic decisions.


  • Mark Hurley (2007). “Tips for Applying Concepts of Developmental Advising in Practice”. In The New Advisor Guidebook: Mastering the Art of Advising Through the First Year and Beyond, ed. Pat Folsom and Ban Chamberlain (Kansas: National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), 2007), p.39-40.

Below are a useful summary from an article of Peggy A. Jordan (2007) regarding effective communication through listening and interviewing in an advising meeting:

1. Listening

Effective listening is an active and complex process involving awareness of both the adviser himself and the student.

  1. Self-awareness (awareness of one’s own physical and emotional states and physical behaviours)
    1. Physical state
      (e.g. if an adviser has a headache or if he / she is starving, it may affect his / her focus)
    2. Emotional state
      (if an adviser feels sad or angry, even if it has nothing to do with the student he / she is advising, the student may perceive his / her emotions as personally directed towards him)
    3. Physical behaviours
      Positive physical behaviours include:

      • smiling when greeting a student;
      • maintaining good posture;
      • making eye contact;
      • using facial expressions such as smiles and head nods;
      • maintaining an open posture (without crossing one’s arms or legs)

      Negative physical behaviours include:

      • looking at one’s watch;
      • fidgeting;
      • distracting behaviours like pencil tapping, rubber band snapping etc;
      • answering the phone while with a student
  2. Awareness of the student
    1. Active listening
      (Advisers may be tempted to answer the students’ question before the advisee has completely stated it. The student must be allowed to finish talking, even if the adviser thinks he / she has heard the same story from other students)
    2. Clarifying questions
      (Asking questions is part of the listening process. Advisers may put students’ words, tone, gestures and body language together to guess at the meaning of the communication exchange, but this is only a guess until the adviser checks his / her understanding with the student.

2. Interviewing

Skill in interviewing can elicit valuable information from students.

  1. For students who do not have a specific question and do not know what to do in an advising meeting, open-ended questions may elicit the best information and help move the conference forward. Examples of open-ended questions
    • What do you expect will happen here?
    • What do you hope to accomplish here?
  2. For students who have no academic problem, an adviser may need to ask how the advisees made the decisions that led to the academic situation.

When advisers learn to be skillful interviewers with abilities in different kinds of inquiry and in unhurried listening, they offer students the opportunity to grow conceptually and eventually evaluate circumstances to make their own decisions.


  • Peggy A Jordan (2007). “Building Effective Communication through Listening, Interviewing, and Referral”. In The New Advisor Guidebook: Mastering the Art of Advising Through the First Year and Beyond, ed. Pat Folsom and Ban Chamberlain (Kansas: National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), 2007), p.83-85.