Graduate School

Advising and Mentoring Resources for Students

Advising can be defined as offering constructive counsel and guidance to graduate students in order to assist them in meeting their academic and professional goals.


An advisor helps to evaluate students’ skills, talents, and performance as well as assists in the selection of coursework and other academic and training programs that will further their academic and professional development. Advisors play a central role in supporting the development of a dissertation project as well as supervising the student’s progress on the dissertation. Advisors also support a student’s career post-completion. Advisors collaborate with the graduate program’s Director of Graduate Study (DGS) to make sure that all parties are aware of relevant expectations for progress through the program. 


Mentoring is an active process by which faculty establish and foster relationships with graduate students by offering guidance, support, and encouragement aimed at developing their competence and character. Mentors listen actively to mentee’s concerns and care about their personal and professional well-being. Mentors want to help graduate students further develop their strengths, work through challenges, achieve academic excellence, and advance professionally in career paths of the student’s choosing. Mentors act as advocates and role models for their mentees and are committed to helping graduate students meet their personal and professional goals.

While a student should always have an “official” advisor, graduate students generally benefit from having a broader network of mentors with complementary strengths. Graduate students are encouraged to build a network of mentors. 

Key Elements

  1. Choose a principal advisor carefully. 
  2. Understand and respect that each advisor and mentor brings different perspectives, experiences, strengths, and interests.
  3. Recruit multiple mentors and advisors.
  4. Be proactive. 
  5. Communicate clearly and frequently with an advisor about expectations and responsibilities, ensuring with each communication that there is mutual understanding. 
  6. Meet regularly with your advisor to review progress, goals, challenges, and future plans.
  7. Work with your advisor to develop a timeline for completing academic requirements and meeting professional goals. 
  8. Seek, welcome, and respond to feedback. 
  9. Address difficulties and issues you have in the advising relationship and other aspects of graduate student experience head on.
  10. Be knowledgeable about departmental and Graduate School policies. 
  11. Take advantage of additional resources across the University and beyond.

Resources on Mentoring for Advisees and Mentees

In recognition of how busy graduate students are, we have sorted through a wide range of materials and offer here those that we have found most helpful.

Inclusive Mentoring: Effective Graduate Student Mentoring Practices, Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning
Highlights critical strategies and resources for effective mentor-mentee relationships: providing advice, focusing on communication, mentoring across difference, and setting goals and expectations.

A Guide on Mentoring for Graduate Students, Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan
Guides graduate students on finding a mentor, what to do if problems arise, changing advisors and more. 

Mentoring Guide for Students, University of Washington Graduate School
Offers guidance on building a mentoring team, selecting mentors, meeting with advisors (including a checklist for planning initial meetings), understanding influences that affect mentor choice, the mentoring experience and much more.

Graduate Students: Working with your faculty adviser, University of Washington, College of Education
Gives a good overview of meetings with advisors, how to prepare, what to expect and how to summarize

Provides resources on setting agendas for advisory meetings, documenting writing goals, and charting progress.

Individual Development plan model, Brown University
The IDP helps students outline previous accomplishments, short-term and long-term training plans and career goals, as well as identify strengths and areas for improvement. The IDP is a communication tool for advisors and their advisees and is a good starting point to discuss academic plans and trajectories and future careers.

Center for Career Exploration, Brown University 
The Center for Career Exploration offers support to graduate students on interviewing, job search, résumés, and cover letter writing, as well as some programming on careers outside of the academy. The office offers regular graduate student walk-in office hours and sessions by appointment.

myIDP,  (Life and Physical Sciences) 
Online, free individual development plan for students in the life and physical sciences. The self-assessment highlights a student’s strengths and interests and suggests career pathways that may best suit the student.

ImaginePhD, Imagine PhD (Humanities and Social Sciences)
Online, free career exploration and planning tool tailored for the humanities and social sciences.

Connected Academies, Preparing Doctoral Students of Language and Literature for a Variety of Careers
Online resources for career diversity for language and literature students, guides for PhD programs and faculty advisers for doctoral student career planning, and much more. This online project is a Mellon Foundation funded project of the Modern Language Association. 

The Versatile PhD 
Online resource for career exploration for PhD students. 

Graduate Student Resources - Where to Start, Brown Graduate School
Provides a starting point for graduate student questions and resources on campus that can assist.

Who to ask: Graduate School and other contacts for graduate students, Brown Graduate School
Offers contacts list for common questions from graduate students.

Deans and staff, Brown Graduate School

How to meet with a dean, Brown Graduate School