Much of the learning that takes place in higher education occurs outside of class, during interactions with faculty and peers. Close relationships with professors are critical to a productive graduate school experience but they are important well before graduate school begins. Undergraduates also benefit from mentoring relationships with faculty. Mentors are guides They can help you identify your academic and professional needs and help you to seek opportunities and experiences to meet them. They offer opportunities to get research experience, writing experience, publications and presentations, and training opportunities such as fellowships, internships, and assistantships. Mentors may introduce you to their professional network by asking you to meet their colleagues at conferences, for example. Your discussions can help you develop confidence and a sense of professional identity.  Although graduate students often reap more of these benefits, these rewards hold for both undergraduate and graduate mentoring relationships. However undergraduates applying to graduate school receive advice as well as tangible benefits such as recommendation letters, and perhaps even a call to a colleague at another university. Academic advisors are often assigned. Undergraduates typically see their advisors once or twice a semester when they register for classes.

Seek a mentor in grad school

Your mentor is an important influence on your professional development but remember that no mentor can meet all of your professional development needs. Graduate students might seek mentorship in a variety of activities such as research, teaching, and applied work.  No mentor can fulfill all of these roles. A secondary mentor such as another research advisor, practicum supervisor or professional can provide support, advice, and a new perspective on your career. Including someone they can turn to for more personal questions such as how to balance work and home life, the happiest graduate students have several mentors for the various facets of professional life. Learn about the mentoring dynamic and what type of relationship you can aspire to before you get involved in a mentoring relationship. Take initiate in making this so. Think about what type of career you want. Do you know any faculty who embody this career? Look for potential mentors once you have identified your mentoring needs. Collect information about them. Pay attention to bulletin boards that may list faculty talks, visit faculty web pages to review their vitae and publications. Some include descriptions of their labs and how to apply to work with them. Ask other students about their experiences with faculty to learn about what they are like: their expectations, how easy it is to get along with them, quirks, working style, and so on. It’s time to get to know them after you have identified potential mentors. Make contact and gain the professor’s attention by signing up for a class or seminar, or ask if you can help them with their research. Know something about their research before you ask. Make it clear that you are aware of their work – and interested in it – rather than blindly searching for ways to get research experience.