As promised, here is one of my good experiences as an academic advisor. This is one of my absolute favorite stories which I always remember when I need to remember the old adage, "don't judge a book by its cover". You never know what people are going through, so reserve judgment until you understand.
About a year ago, during New Student Orientation, I met one of my favorite students of all-time. Ironically, we didn't start off very well! During three-day NSO's, students go to their academic colleges on Day Two to hear a college-wide presentation. Afterwards, we break off into smaller groups to talk more in-depth about how their credit transferred and what classes they need to take.
During my small group session, a mother raised her hand in the middle of my speech to ask a question about her daughter's math credit. She sounded extremely annoyed, so I answered her question, even though I was in the middle of a speech to the group. She said, "that is not what we were told at check-in! Which one of you is right?"
My first instinct was to snap back at her, because she was damaging my credibility in front of the rest of my students. Instead, I bit back my anger and said I would be happy to come speak to her and her daughter privately after the small group session was over. After the session, I sat next to the mother and daughter to see what happened.
As I spoke to them, the daughter looked particularly sad. It turns out she was a transfer from Texas Christian University because her parents simply could not afford the tuition anymore. Her mother was devastated to make her daughter transfer, which is why she got so angry over the math credit. I cleared up the math credit situation and then talked to the daughter, trying to encourage her. I shared some of my experiences as a Texas Tech alumnae. Obviously I loved it because I am still here! I also shared how I cried during my NSO (full disclosure, here) because I was so overwhelmed by the entire process. And look how I turned out! I had a rocky beginning, but I am now gainfully employed, which is the whole point of college, right?
My story seemed to encourage the daughter, and she finally started to smile. I also gave her a hug, because I am a big believer in the healing power of touch (obviously, feel out the situation before you really offend someone by touching them!). Finally, I gave her my email and told her to contact me with ANY issues she might have as she started at Texas Tech. I could help direct her to the correct resources, no matter what the problem. My offer of support made the mother feel much better, because she knew her daughter would not be alone.
I have seen this student several times since then, and each time she looks happier. She has really found her place here, and I no longer think she regrets transferring. While she is responsible for her own success, I like to think I helped her realize the opportunities Texas Tech could give her at NSO. You never know what people are experiencing. Give them the benefit of the doubt if you can!