Meeting Your First-Year Advisees: An In-depth Description

Fall and Spring Meetings Explained

It is recommended that you meet with each of your first-year advisees three times during the fall term and the spring term: (1) at the beginning of the term (during add/drop period), (2) at the midterm, (3) and at the end of the term (during the early registration/advising period):

Your first FALL-term meeting  will be dedicated to getting to know your advisees as people and as students; their plans and goals for the fall term; their ideas about possible areas of concentration or major; their extracurricular interests; and their reaction to their first impact with Yale.  You may also include a discussion of which and how many courses they plan to explore and enroll in this term, and why (students should be discouraged from exploring an excessive number of courses — say, more than 6-8).  This meeting is best held in the opening days of the fall term, as that is the moment when their ideas are still fluid and your advice will be most effective. 

Your preparation for this meeting might include clicking on the “Supplemental Advisee Data” link on the left-hand side of each advisee’s Student Profile page: there you’ll find your advisee’s answers to the summer Advising Survey, including answers to such questions as “what should my adviser know about me?”

Your second FALL-term meeting  will take place around the midterm and will be a check-in meeting during which you may follow up on any issues raised during the first meeting, answer questions that have arisen since then, check in about their living situation and general adjustment to Yale, and mention that you will contact them at least once more for the third and final meeting of the fall term, during the early registration/advising period at the end of the term. See Advising at the Midterm and End-of-Term for more detailed information.

Your third FALL-term meeting  will be dedicated to following up on any issues raised during the first two meetings, answering questions that have arisen since the midterm, checking in about their general wellbeing, and reviewing their ideas for course selection for the spring term. See Advising at the Midterm and End-of-Term for more detailed information.

Your first SPRING-term meeting with your advisees will take place shortly after school reconvenes after Winter Recess. Did you already meet with your advisees at the end of the fall term (in November or December)? If so, you may want to indicate that this is an optional check-in meeting. If not, you’ll want to schedule a complete meeting with your advisees.

Your goals for this spring-term meeting include helping students reflect on their fall term and finalize a spring course schedule based on a realistic assessment of their abilities and preparation (click here for an expanded discussion of the Goals of Spring-term First-Year Advising Meetings). The first spring-term advising meeting is not too early to bring up summer plans, as many applications for summer courses or internships take place between January and March.

Your second SPRING-term meeting will fall at the midterm will include a review the spring term thus far; a new inquiry about their ideas for a concentration or major (now that they have one-and-a-half terms under their belts); their extracurricular interests; and their plans for the summer.  Some advisers also frame this meeting as an optional check-in meeting

Your third SPRING-term meeting will fall towards the end of the term, during early registration for the next fall, and serves to help your advisees recap and review their first year, get your advice about summer activities, and benefit from your guidance about sophomore-year courses and goals during the late-spring early registration period. It is important that you meet with your advisees at this time.

If you are available to serve as your advisee’s college adviser during their sophomore year, this is a good time to let them know: at roughly the same time as they are registering early for fall courses, they are also submitting the Sophomore-Year College Adviser form to indicate whether they will remain with their first-year adviser (you) for their sophomore year, switch to a new college adviser (usually one of their  instructors or a faculty member in their prospective major), or declare a major, at which point the director of undergraduate studies (DUS) of that major becomes their sophomore-year adviser. 

N.B. While first-year students are encouraged to contact their advisers, you may find that they are late to do so and you may end up emailing them, using the contact information in Student Profile or received from your residential college dean to set up advising meetings during the first or second week of the spring term. In the spring term, your preparation for those meetings might include a review of their fall-term grades. And speaking of grades, it’s important to keep in mind that some students may consider, say, a C as a “failing” grade, while others may be relieved to have done “so well.” It’s also useful to ask your advisees what they thought of their fall grades, before issuing any statements of your own.

fall Term only: your First meeting with your advisees

How should you conduct your first, fall-term meeting with your advisees? We suggest that you begin by telling your advisees something about yourself —

  • who you are
  • how long you have been at Yale
  • your academic field
  • personal interests that you care to share (music, sports, and hobbies will all be of interest to them).

You can then ask them to introduce themselves by telling you something about their background (hometown, family, high school, experience during COVID) and academic and other interests. You might ask why your advisees chose to attend Yale, or talk about what they look forward to accomplishing at Yale, academically and otherwise. Try to get a sense of their tentative long-range plans (the arts, business, public service, law, medicine, graduate school, etc.), understanding that many (actually, more than half of them) will change their plans while they are here.

More for Fall and Spring Terms: one-on-one meetings with your advisees, Con’t

To the extent that you delve into the realm of academics and course selection, you might keep in mind some overarching goals. Ask your advisees (in the fall), or review with them (for the spring), the kinds of questions they should keep in mind as they build a course schedule. Many of these questions may be found on the Conversation Starters webpage; some basic questions are listed here:

  • What are their goals for the year?
  • What are their passions outside the classroom?
  • Is there a curricular link?
  • Have they considered exploring a field with which they are completely unfamiliar?

You may see possibilities that would never occur to them. Suggest to them that this first year is a time of adjustment to a new place and exploration of new academic and extracurricular interests. Second-semester students especially benefit from a reminder that they’re not expected to have nailed down a major just yet.

You will begin to develop personal relationships with your advisees during these advising sessions. Another focus of your meetings might be on making connections (in the fall) or rekindling connections (in the spring). It gives you an opportunity to begin to get to know them or to to build on connections you’ve already made, and it will also give your advisees a chance to get to know you. Remember that first-term students will have been on campus for a remarkably short period of time when you first meet them, and building relationships will be one of the things about which they are most anxious. Second-term students have a better understanding of Yale, but still need reliable, adult advice about how to approach the spring term.

Students will have the opportunity in the fall term to discuss specific course questions with directors of undergraduate studies at the Academic Fair that is part of First-Year Orientation, and you should encourage them to direct specific questions to the relevant departmental representatives. Nevertheless, there may be students who expect you to give them specific advice about such issues as course sequences or the requirements for a particular major, etc. You should feel free to defer these questions  to the directors of undergraduate studies (DUS) if you are not qualified to answer them. First-year students will have been told by  their residential college deans and first-year counselors during First-Year Orientation meetings that your role is that of a knowledgeable adult who cares about their transition to college and academic career and who will offer non-technical advice. Answers to detailed questions can come later and from others, such as the dean, a DUS, or a first-year counselor (“froco”).

Of course, some students — fall and spring — will come to meetings with you with a list of courses that they want to explore . This might provide a good opportunity to use whatever they bring you as a way to think about the composition of their fall term schedules in more general terms. You might also want to refer to the sections on this website called “Helping Your Advisees Select Courses” (aimed at advisers) and “Crafting Your First-Year Course Schedule” (aimed at advisees)  Early registration period and add/drop period are times for exploration—but the unfettered ability to explore can be overwhelming for many first-year students. To the degree that you can help them think through their choices, you can also help them use these periods more effectively. 

Some general things to look out for:

  • Ask them how they came up with that particular group of courses to explore. This may lead to an interesting conversation about what they are looking for—or whether there is something they are overlooking
  • Are they simply rehashing a high school schedule (math, science, English, language), when they didn’t have the range of options that the Yale curriculum makes available to them? If so, can you help them to think about other possibilities that might be of interest?
  • If you don’t see a small class on their schedule, you might encourage them to consider taking one
  • Remind your advisees that, even though add/drop periods offers them the opportunity to adjust their course schedules, they will need (1) to keep up in the classes they preregistered for so that they don’t find themselves behind if they decide to retain those courses; and (2) to keep up with any courses they plan to add to their course schedules
For Advisers Who Want to Go into Detail

Course Selection, Distributional Requirements, STEM Majors, etc.

While not the focus of college advising, many advisers may also wish to help students with course selection.  One place to start is to help them identify a course schedule consonant with a realistic assessment of their abilities and high school preparation. The information you can view by logging onto Student Profile,, such as general information on the geographic, personal, academic background of your students, can also be helpful in this regard.

Undecided students may benefit from settling on a schedule that leaves several pathways open for an eventual choice of a major. Students with specific departmental interests, on the other hand, will benefit from a referral to directors of undergraduate studies or colleagues in those departments.

For students with specific questions about distributional requirements, acceleration, STEM majors, and premedical requirements, do not hesitate to refer them to their residential college dean, if you are not able to answer their questions yourself.

Striking a Balance

Your students may need you to help them appreciate the need to strike a balance between academic commitments and extracurricular opportunities. In some cases, this will mean asking whether they have gotten themselves overly involved in clubs and activities. While all of our incoming students juggled complicated schedules in high school, few will be truly prepared for increased demands of college-level coursework. They may find that the ways in which they managed their time in high school do not work at Yale. You can help them think about new ways to approach their work that may be more appropriate for them in this academic climate. In other cases, you will need to help your students avoid overly ambitious course loads. Emphasize to first-year students the appropriateness of taking at least one small course that allows them to participate in discussions. Studies have shown that students do considerably better overall when they enroll in at least one small course that excites them.

Unless their high school preparation is especially strong, first-year students should be discouraged from taking more than four courses (4 or 4.5 credits) in the first term of enrollment, particularly if their program contains advanced courses. Because science students have special advising needs, they should be encouraged to seek the advice of science colleagues at the Academic Fair or from directors of undergraduate studies.

It is particularly important that students considering a major in the STEM fields begin the appropriate foundational work during the first year. This will normally include one course in mathematics along with one course in the natural sciences and its accompanying laboratory course during the first semester. Students in the biological sciences normally complete the general chemistry requirement or begin organic chemistry during the first year and, if appropriate, begin coursework in biology. Students in the physical sciences and in engineering normally pursue course work in physics, chemistry, or both.