Succeeding in Graduate School

Success in graduate school depends on more than earning good grades. This is a time for you to build a professional network, learn professional behavior, and begin a new stage in your career. The tools below will help you get started on the right path.

What do advisors expect from you?

Faculty have higher expectations of graduate students than for undergraduates. The list below covers basic expectations, but it doesn't cover everything. You are encouraged to discuss specific expectations with your advisor on a regular basis.

You are expected to:

  • Perform work in a timely and responsible manner
  • Ask questions when expectations or protocols are unclear
  • Discuss your expectations with your advisor
  • Establish career goals and initiate your job search
  • Maintain good research records - each field is different, but this generally involves a complete set of lab notes
  • Follow polices that govern practice in your field
  • Be familiar with and adhere to Michigan Tech policies and procedures
  • Meet with your advisor regularly and report on your progress to date
  • Meet deadlines and make continuous good progress toward completion of your degree
  • Study full-time when you are enrolled full-time. 
    • If you are funded as a GRA or GTA, this part-time employment is provided by the University to allow you to pursue your education on a full-time basis.
  • Participate in events such as program seminars and defenses for your professional development
  • Treat all members of the University community with respect
  • Avoid personal or professional relationships that might result in a conflict of interest
  • Commit the time and energy required for success

What can you expect from your advisor?

You will form a life-long relationship with your advisor. You can expect more from your advisor than you would expect from a course instructor. Below are some basic expectations that will help you understand the types of guidance an advisor generally provides.

You can expect your advisor to:

  • Provide training in research methods and standards for responsible conduct
  • Emphasize importance of ethical standards of conduct
  • Help you to identify appropriate courses and projects that can be used to satisfy degree requirements
  • Aid you in setting goals and establishing timelines for your research project
  • Manage shared research resources such as staff and equipment
  • Set criteria for and honestly evaluate your progress
  • Set an example by following proper research protocols
  • Set criteria for credit in publications
  • Provide feedback in a reasonable amount of time
  • Establishing, with you, a dissertation or thesis committee early in your career
  • Meet with you regularly to provide feedback
  • Make arrangements to be accessible or have alternative supervision during extended leaves
  • Encourage you to attend seminars for your professional development
  • Encourage and assist you in preparing publications or presentations
  • Provide advice and letters of reference to assist you with your job search
  • Ensure that the study and research environments are safe
  • Treat all members of the University community with respect
  • Promote networking with other professionals
  • Avoid personal or professional relationships that might result in a conflict of interest
  • Be familiar with and adhere to Michigan Tech policies and procedures

You shouldn't expect your advisor to answer every question you have. It's important to develop a network of professionals to support you in your career. This network will include your examining committee, peer mentors, professional mentors, and other colleagues. All of your professional relationships will contribute to your growth as a professional.

What is mentoring and why is it important?

A mentor is defined by Webster's dictionary as, "a trusted counselor or guide." The most successful professionals will have several mentors, who may be different people at different stages in their career. A mentor can be a faculty member, a professional in the field, or a peer. 

Since your advisor is also your supervisor (who grades and evaluates your progress) it is a good idea to find other individuals to support your success. Having a team of mentors will help you achieve your professional goals and provide advice and support throughout your graduate career and into your professional life.

See the "About Mentoring" section of our web site to get suggestions on how to:

  • Find a mentor,
  • Start a mentoring relationship, and
  • Ask a mentor for what you need

Educate yourself, start networking, find support

Educate yourself

Start networking online

Network in your discipline

Some examples of professional societies for a variety of disciplines are below. Every discipline has one or more professional societies that host meetings on a regular basis.

Find support for underrepresented minorities

Technology and tools at Tech

Who to go to for help