This website works best with a current browser. Update your browser from

Advisor-Advisee Relationship


At Fredonia - Advising is Individualized Teaching

Good advice about advising comes from many different sources.  Key to every relationship, of course, is communication.  We start, then, with some basic information that will help you, the advisor, and your advisee get the most out of this very important relationship.  Please keep in mind that whether you work with this student for one semester or for his/her entire academic career, you may be the single most important person s/he talks to while s/he is here


Communication Skills in the Advisor-Advisee Relationship

To assist students in decision making, the following skills are particularly important.


Listening is the most basic advising skill.  The elements of listening behavior include eye contact, body language, verbal responses, and vocal tone. Most helpful to advisees are involved advisors who practice active listening skills.  Examples of active listening skills for advisors are as follows:

  • Appreciate the emotion behind your advisees’ words (voice intonation and body language).
  • Constantly try to check your understanding of what you hear (not hear what you want to hear).
  • Do not interrupt your advisees’ sentences.
  • Fight off external distractions.
  • Take notes (do not trust your memory where certain facts and data are important).
  • Let your advisee tell their story first.
  • Constantly check to see if your advisees want to comment or respond to what you have previously said to them.
  • Relax and try not to give advisees the impression you want to jump right in and talk.
  • Establish good eye contact.
  • Use affirmative head nods.
  • Avoid nervous or bored expressions.
  • Ask clarifying or continuing questions (it demonstrates to your advisees that you are involved in what they are saying).



Advisors need to HEAR as well as LISTEN.  One way in which advisors can demonstrate that advisees have been heard is by paraphrasing, or restating to advisees what they have said.  Along with paraphrasing, advisors need to demonstrate a sensitivity to the feelings behind the words by reflecting those feelings back to advisees.  Used in combination, paraphrasing and reflecting can ensure more open and caring communication, as well as promote greater understanding between advisors and advisees.


Questioning is a third skill advisors need in order to facilitate discussions with advisees.  Questions can open new areas for discussion, they can help advisees explore concerns, and they can help identify issues in the discussion.


Closed Questions:

  • Used to obtain specific facts.
  • Best to begin conversations with these types of questions—makes it easy for advisees to enter the conversation.
  • Can be used to direct conversation to specific areas.

Involvement Questions:

  • Draws your advisee more actively into the discussion. 
  • Can be used to get your advisees to elaborate on their goals, needs, wants, and problems. 
  • Allows your advisees to discover things on their own. 

Clarifying Questions:

  • Invites your advisees to expand or clarify an idea they previously expressed.
  • Feedback of your understanding of what you thought your advisee meant.
  • Helps uncover what is really on your advisees’ minds.

Continuing (Key Word) Questions:

Ask your advisees for a more detailed explanation of what they were saying.


We continue these thoughts with a few other sources that we think you will find interesting and helpful as you work through situations that arise during your advising sessions.  

"Tips on Making Effective Referrals in Academic Advising"

"The Power of Good Advice for Students"

National Academic Advising Association Resources 

Page modified 12/7/15