Advising Culturally Diverse Students

Working With Students From Diverse Cultures

All our interactions should keep in mind first the Principles of Community!

  • Be aware of your biases and how they may affect the advising relationship.
  • Be aware that cultural differences do exist. We try so hard not to see African American, Hispanic, Asian or Native American that we see nothing.
  • If the student is experiencing difficulty, ask why. Do not automatically attribute the difficulties to upbringing, low income, or environment.
  • Help the advisee work toward a positive outcome. Do not tell the advisee only what he/she can do. Empower the student to work for positive change in addition to informing the student about the situation.
  • Help the advisee learn strategies to overcome barriers. Do not be an extremist. That is, do not “carry” a student through college. However, do not ignore and fail to address aspects of the student’s educational experience that may be detrimental.
  • Do not treat the student of color differently from other students when in a group. For example, do not suggest a separate list of courses for the student of color as compared to the rest of the students. If you have any concerns compared to the other students, suggest a meeting time or converse privately.
  • Inform the student about his/her advocacy office. Some may not wish to receive services. However, others may desire the assistance of the office. Let the student make the decision.
  • If you have any questions about a student or a situation concerning a student, do not hesitate to contact the appropriate advocacy office director. He/she can be helpful in answering these questions.
  • Keep in mind that students of color may not explore non-traditional majors. If you see the potential in a student, inform the student about opportunities in those non-traditional majors.
  • Keep in mind the educational background of the student. Place the student in courses and course combinations in which he/she is adequately prepared. That is, if the student has not had adequate background in science, do not place him/her in a high-level chemistry course.
  • Remember that all students have to adjust to their environment as well as strive for good grades. However, the adjustment may be more difficult for a student of color. Keep the adjustment in mind when advising students on their credit load.
  • Do not be apprehensive of a student’s cultural difference. If the student needs to improve in an area or is excelling in an area, communicate that information to the student. Learn to direct the student through communication.
  • Consider referring the student to other academic support services on campus.

Key Questions

Students of color should be asked the same questions as any other student. The important point is to ask questions and not make assumptions. The advisor may have to use exploratory questions to first develop trust and then target the student with specific questions. The following are examples:

  • Why are you having difficulty in your PSY100 course?
  • Do you experience difficulty understanding the material?
  • Do you feel comfortable in the classroom and on campus?
  • You do not seem to do well in ______ courses. Why do you think this is?
  • Do you think this is the right major for you?
  • I notice you do well in math. Have you considered the opportunities of a math major?
  • This chemistry course requires a high level of math ability. What is your math background? Do you feel comfortable registering for this course?
  • I would like to meet with you to discuss your class registration list. Would you like to schedule an appointment?
  • How has your adjustment to college been (residence hall, friends, and professors)?
  • What do you miss about home? (This question will indicate a possible feeling of isolation or alienation. But remember that all students may feel homesick.)
  • Have you gotten connected to any groups or organizations on campus? Which ones?
  • Have you sought tutoring services or help in any of your classes?  Why or why not? Do you think it would help you?
  • What do you need to be more successful at CSU?


Asian/Pacific-American Cultural Center Black/African-American Cultural Center
Native American Cultural Center El Centro Student Services

CSU offers excellent opportunities to learn more about your own identities and how that may have effects on your interactions, social justice, and diversity.  There are many upcoming training opportunities.

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