There will be a full spectrum of issues that advisees will raise and not every problem will require a referral to a specialist. Students may just come in with a question, which should be "referred to someone else" (see contact list). However, advisors will be faced with many of the problems that students experience and should be aware of how and when to refer.
Deciding when a referral should be made
- Determine the problem(s)
- Listen to what the advisee is really trying to tell you, before responding. Make sure you understand exactly what the student sees as the problem.
- Ask what the student has tried or thought of up until that point.
- Try to determine how "normal" the problem may be.
- Find out enough about the problem to be able to make the best referral.
- Determine whether or not you can help and/or are qualified to offer the help needed. For example:
- When a person presents a problem or requests information, which is outside your range of knowledge.
- Someone you feel you have not helped or who you've gone as far as you can go with, but who you feel needs help.
- Lack of objectivity on your part.
- If a student is reluctant to discuss a problem with you for some reason.
- Student has physical symptoms (headaches, insomnia, stomach pains).
- Identify the offices or persons to whom the student may be referred. See contact list.
Referral Process: ability to refer the student to the proper person/office
- A referral is a recommendation, not a directive.
- Explain clearly and directly why you feel it is appropriate to refer.
- Involve the student in the process. Deal with their feelings about the referral (objections, fears, etc.). Get the student to discuss their problem(s), consider reasons for referral, evaluate possible sources of help, and assist in the selection of the specific office or person.
- Explain fully the services which can be obtained from the office or resource person you are recommending.
- Be very specific in the referral (identify location, name of the person, telephone number).
- Refer the student to a specific person in the office. Give directions to the office if necessary or offer to accompany the student.
- Discuss with the student any need for sharing information with other administrators or staff and obtain the student's consent and approval.
- Help the student formulate questions to ask and approaches to take.
- Provide the person or the office who will assist the student all the information essential to helping the student.
Follow-up: the ability to evaluate the appropriateness and effectiveness of the referral
- Determine if the student kept the appointment.
- Discuss with the student his or her evaluation of the help received from the person or office.
Adapted from "Referral Skills," as found in Crockett, D.S. (Ed.). Advising Skills, Techniques, and Resources. Iowa City, Iowa: The American College Testing Program, 1986. p 286.