Tools for Advising Graduate Students

The purpose of these tools is to help faculty and graduate students in the College of Engineering make the advising relationship as productive and positive as possible. Many of the difficulties in the advisor-advisee relationship stem from unclear communication or a discrepancy in expectations. These tools are designed to help set clear expectations for both the advisor and advisee, and assist with clear communication and goal-setting. The tools and/or their mode of use may be tailored to individual situations as desired. Use of the tools is strongly encouraged for all faculty and graduate students.

A. Student-Advisor Expectation Scales

When to use: Advisor selection (if applicable) and new student onboarding
Goal: To set clear expectations between the advisor and advisee. This helps the relationship get off to a good start and helps the advisor and advisee determine if the student is a good fit for the research group.
How to use: Both parties should fill this document out separately. There are no right answers. The student and advisor can then discuss points on which they differ. This will help set mutually-agreeable expectations from day one.

B. Research Group Expectations

When to use: Advisor selection (if applicable) and new student onboarding
Goal: To outline policies and procedures in the lab/research group as well as the expectations that the advisor has for the student. This will also help students assess their potential fit with a research group.
How to use: Faculty are strongly encouraged to create such a document for their labs/research groups and to share it with new and prospective graduate students. They are free to modify the example document or write their own.

C. Weekly or Biweekly Individual Meeting Template

When to use: Weekly/biweekly individual meetings
Goal: To help both parties keep track of the student’s progress and assist with short-term goal setting and accountability for both the student and advisor.
How to use: The graduate student should fill out the template before the meeting. During the meeting, the student and advisor can modify the document as needed. We recommend either printing out these sheets and keeping them in a folder or creating a shared Google doc. This will allow both parties to keep track of progress.

D. Individualized Development Plans

When to use: Every six months-one year
Goal: To assist with long-term planning and progress evaluation.
How to use: This document will ideally be used once or twice per year. Detailed instructions are provided with the document. In brief, the student and advisor both fill out the document separately detailing accomplishments since the last meeting, research goals for the upcoming timeframe, personal and professional goals, and feedback. This is one of the few clear opportunities for students to give feedback to the advisor, so faculty are strongly encouraged both to use these documents and to accept feedback from the students graciously. Both parties comment on each other’s documents and create a yearly plan together.