Unlike the first first-year advising meeting in the fall, which occurred in a group setting in the residential college dining halls and were organized by the residential college deans, you are in charge of contacting your sophomore advisees, organizing your meetings with them, and setting the time and location (usually, your faculty office) for your advising meetings in the spring. Harrumph, you say, students should instead take responsibility for contacting you? Hear, hear! However, experience shows that, when left to their own devices, first-years will wait until the eleventh hour to contact their first-year advisers, ensuring that little actual advising takes place and causing a scramble for everyone involved.
First-year advisers’ meetings with their first-year advisees are usually one-on-one, but it should be noted that a few first-year advisers schedule meetings with two or more students at a time, especially when the students are roommates or share academic interests — with reports of satisfaction on both sides.
When meeting with your advisees, you might consider asking them the kinds of questions they should be asking themselves as they build a spring-term schedule:
- what is their assessment of the fall term?
- what are their goals for the spring term?
- where do their extracurricular activities fit in with their academic or post-Yale-related plans?
- will they continue exploring fields offered at Yale to which they weren’t exposed before?
You may see possibilities and talking points that haven’t occurred to your advisees. Suggest that the entire first year is a year of adjustment to a new place and exploration of new academic and extracurricular interests; this can be particularly reassuring to students who were disappointed with some aspects of their first semester at Yale.
Some additional conversation starters, beyond those featured above, are listed on the first-year adviser “For the Spring Term” page.
A focus of the spring-term meetings should be on strengthening the connections you made last fall. They give you an opportunity to get to know your advisees better, and for them to get to know you better. Building relationships is a key skill and often crucial to academic success.
Students will have the opportunity to discuss specific course questions with directors of undergraduate studies during their office hours, and you should encourage them to direct specific questions to the relevant departmental representative. Many students are lax to take advantage of the services DUSes offer, and you can help them overcome that reticence. At the same time, there may be students who expect you to give them precise advice about such issues as the requirements for a particular major, etc. You should feel free to defer these questions if you are not qualified to answer them. The first-years will have been told by the deans of their residential colleges in their mid-January Registration Meetings that your role is that of knowledgeable adult who cares about their transition to college and academic career, and who will offer non-technical advice. Answers to the detailed questions can come from others, such as a dean or DUS.
Of course, some students will come to this meeting with a list of courses that they want to explore during course selection period (a.k.a. “shopping”). This might provide a good opportunity to use whatever they bring you as a way to think about the composition of their spring term schedule in more general terms. Shopping period is a time for exploration—but the unfettered ability to explore can be overwhelming, even for second-semester first-years. To the degree that you can help them narrow down their choices, you can help them use shopping period more effectively.
Some general things to look out for:
- Ask them how they came up with that particular group of courses to shop. This may lead to an interesting conversation about what they are looking for—or whether there is something they are overlooking.
- Are they simply repeating the same kind of schedule they took in high school or last semester? Are they embracing or ignoring the range of options that the Yale curriculum makes available to them? If the latter, you can help them to think about other possibilities that might be of interest?
- Is the number of courses they intend to shop reasonable? Anything over 7 or 8 might be too daunting.
- 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 their schedules will not be due for until the latter part of January, they will need to keep up in the classes they are shopping so that they don’t find themselves behind when their final course schedule is submitted.
At the end of your first spring meeting with your advisees, let them know that you will be meeting with them at least one more time to review their course selections for any major changes and sign their schedules.