Your Relationship with Your Academic Advisor
A positive relationship with your advisor is one of the most important determinants of your success in graduate school
As a graduate student, you are paired with a faculty advisor. With their expertise, they will help you chart your academic requirements and milestones.
How Your Academic Advisor Can Help You
Frequent, clear, and respectful communication is the key to a successful and positive advising relationship. Understanding your advisor’s expectations of you as a student and knowing what you can expect from them in return as an advisor can help reduce stress caused by uncertainty or misunderstandings.
One important tool for clear communication and clarifying expectations between advisors and advisees is an Advising Statement—your advisor's statement of their advising philosophy.
An advising statement outlines what the advisor expects and how they interact with students, such as:
- How often they expect to meet with students
- Communication styles and preferences
- Expectations about things like publishing and participating in professional conferences
These examples of advising statements show the range of approaches and styles.
- Look at your advisor’s statement if they have one.
- Make a list of anything that isn’t clear so you can follow-up with your advisor.
- If your advisor doesn’t have a statement, these guidelines for communicating with your advisor can help you identify questions to ask so you have a better understanding of the expectations for both you and your advisor.
Collaborate on Your Academic and Professional Development
Through all stages of your academic career, you will be communicating with your advisor about your career goals and your progress through your graduate program.
Individual Development Plan (IDP)
An Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a great tool to help you map out your professional goals and timeline. Collaborating with your advisor on your IDP helps ensure both good communication about your research and career goals and a concrete plan to help you achieve those goals. Use your IDP to explore and discuss:
- Your research interests and the skills and networks to help you develop these interests
- Expectations for completing degree milestones like courses, exams, and other program requirements
- Timelines and goals for things such as presenting, publishing, or completing an internship
Mentors can provide you with different perspectives, expertise, and motivation beyond your academic advisor and program
It’s unlikely that one individual faculty advisor can help you with everything you need to know in your program and discipline. Mentors can broaden your perspectives and share their knowledge and expertise in less formal ways.