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By Angela Mays / ASAS Graduate Director

The terms advisor and mentor are often used synonymously. However, there are some important difference between those two roles.

More times than not a graduate student enters their program having chosen the advisor they want to work under based upon mentoring qualities he or she may have. However, cases also exist where a graduate student has been assigned to their advisor and the transition of the advisor becoming their mentor may or may not exist. Therefore, it is up to the graduate student to seek out someone who has the qualities they are searching for in a mentor.

So what qualities does a mentor have compared to an advisor? In graduate school an advisor often serves as the person who advises the student regarding courses that are required and other issues that may arise with University policies. The graduate student’s mentor, however, has a very different role and impact on the student’s life and career.

A few of the qualities found in a mentor often include involvement in the same field of study as the graduate student,  similar research and career interests, involvement in networking circles the graduate student is interested in, and most importantly a relationship between the two that allows the graduate student to feel comfortable discussing their goals, interests, and concerns. As stated earlier a dual role may occur where the mentor is also performing the duties of an advisor, but it is often the mentoring role that is more important and impactful to the graduate student.

With a new semester starting and new relationships forming, it is important for graduate students to keep these different qualities and many others in mind when searching for someone to serve as their mentor. Graduate school is the first phase in forming relationships with people who will continue to impact and help you in your future career path. Therefore, graduate students need to be open and aware of the people they interact with this semester and throughout their program and careers. With the beginning of a new
semester, remember that choosing a good mentor can be as important as choosing your program of study.