“I know the deadline has passed, but I’ve just been so busy. Can I submit my application late?”
Which of the following responses would you give?
A) “I’m sorry, it’s a firm deadline. We encourage you to submit an application for the following semester.”
B) “Sure, it’s only one day late. Let me make a note.”
C) “Late applications can only be accepted if you include a 500-word essay on why you missed the deadline and why you must study abroad next term (as opposed to a future term).”
D) “Well, it depends on XYZ. Answer these questions…”
Most offices have a policy on late applications, and you would likely respond according to that policy. But you probably also have a preference based on a personal advising philosophy. In my opinion, each option presents its own set of pros and cons in regards to student development.
“A” is big on the tough love, which preps students for the “real world” and challenges them to get it right next time. The problem with this tactic is that it may leave the student with a negative opinion of you, your office, and/or study abroad in general, which may affect the decision to resubmit the application. This in turn leads to one less person you can count in the ever-important tally of study abroad participation rates.
With “B,” you are securing the participation (assuming the student does not withdraw before departure), and the student leaves happy with you. However, what does the student learn about deadlines? That they do not matter, and there are no consequences for missing them. (Read: Lost student development opportunity.)
“C” may seem like the middle-of-the-road answer – you accept the application, the student learns there are consequences for missing deadlines, and everyone walks away satisfied, right? Maybe, but this option creates more paperwork and an additional check for you when you are already have a zillion things to do.
Lastly, “D” promotes a policy of preference. “Yes, you can submit late if your reason is good enough.” Of course, extenuating circumstances do occasionally surface, and in these cases, showing understanding in a difficult situation can also be a learning experience for the student.
Personally, I have always been a strong believer in the “tough love” strategy (with exceptions for special situations), but studying student development theories in graduate school swayed me toward the “learn from this experience” approach. But situations don’t always play out exactly like any of the options above, so I sometimes wrestle with how to effectively advise these students.
This back-and-forth struggle to find an advising balance also applies to working with our interns (peer advisors). We have been lucky with the caliber of the students that have worked in our office, so I’ve grown to put a lot of trust in them. I expect them to do good work and submit it in a timely manner (as any employer does), but because they are still students, they will at times fail to meet my expectations in one way or another.
When this happens, I struggle to place my disappointment. Should I be upset with the student because they failed to complete a task, or does the fault lie with me since it is my job to help them identify and overcome any associated weaknesses? Does the answer change if the behavior or work is consistently below average? It can sometimes be a tough balancing act, and I have to remind myself frequently that their position in my office is supposed to be a learning experience.
With this in mind, my colleague and I created “Battle of the Interns” to infuse professional development opportunities into the internship and help the students determine their strengths and weaknesses in an office environment (check back later for a post on this!). We’ve received great positive feedback thus far, and for us, this was the answer to at least some of the challenges we were facing with our students.
Do you have any unique advising situations to share or any advice on how to develop an effective advising strategy?