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Advising & Mentoring

Faculty and student advising discussion

Graduate students are encouraged to seek out faculty advice in both formal and informal settings.

VPGE, 2013

Faculty advisors, particularly for doctoral students, play an important role in students' intellectual development.

Every Stanford graduate student is expected to work closely with a faculty advisor. Advisors assist students in planning a program of study to meet degree requirements. Students are also encouraged to seek out mentors in addition to their formal faculty advisor.

Successful advising and mentoring relationships are characterized by clear expectations, open communication, and a willingness to resolve problems. The programs and resources below can facilitate productive relationships between graduate students and their advisors and mentors.

Programs and Workshops

Setting Expectations and Resolving Conflicts with Your Advisor Workshop

Sitting down together to discuss and set expectations is an excellent way to create a solid foundation for both students and advisors. How to broach such a conversation, however, can be tricky. In this quarterly workshop, students will learn an interest-based approach to setting expectations and preparing for difficult conversations.

Management Matters

A three-session workshop focuses on simple principles and guidelines that, once learned, can make the process of managing others enjoyable and effective, and help you succeed in whatever career path you choose.

Individual Development Plans

Advisors and students or postdoctoral scholars are encouraged to meet annually to take stock, discuss short- and long-term goals, and develop specific plans. Individual Development Plans (IDPs) can help you assess your skills and progress, reflect on where you would like to be, and define specific actions toward achieving your goals. Using your completed IDP as a guide, you can discuss of your self-assessment, goals, and plans with your faculty advisor. IDPs are recommended for all students funded by NIH, and are required for PhD students in the Biosciences.

Annual Doctoral Student Degree and Career Progress Meeting Worksheet

Advisors and students are encouraged to meet annually to take stock, discuss short- and long-term goals, and develop specific plans. This customizable worksheet, endorsed by the Committee on Graduate Studies, can help facilitate such conversations.

Biosciences IDPs

Doctoral students in the Biosciences should use the appropriate IDP form,  tailored for students in Year 1, Year 2, and Years 3-5. Other students may find these forms useful to guide their own planning and discussions with their faculty advisor.


This IDP,  developed by Science Careers at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is in use across the country by science students and postdoctoral scholars. All Stanford affiliates have free access to this resource by virtue of Stanford's institutional subsciption to the journal, Science.

Postdoctoral Scholar Career Planning

Postdocs are encouraged to initiate a discussion with their faculty mentors around their career and progress. These forms, developed by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, offer relevant discussion points to facilitate such mentoring conversation.

Planning and Discussion Tools

Guidelines for Good Practices in the Graduate Student—Faculty Advisor Relationship

Review and implement behaviors and practices that help students and faculty establish successful advising relationships.

Student-Advisor Expectation Scales

Use this tool to discuss, define, and align expectations in the student—faculty advising relationship. This resource is not prescriptive; rather, it is meant to assist students and faculty in establishing clear and realistic expectations in the advising relationship.

Additional Resources

There are many articles and tools out there to help guide students and faculty advising relationships; below are just a few examples.

Challenges and Conflicts

Even in the best advising and mentoring relationships, conflicts may arise.