Building and Maintaining the Advising Relationship


Making connections with faculty mentors is critical to your success as a student as well as in life after college. A Gallup study of more than 30,000 alumni with a bachelor’s degree or higher from a nationally representative sample found a positive correlation between job satisfaction after college and the quality of mentoring and advising experiences in college (Gallup-Purdue, 2014). In particular with respect to mentoring and advising, three undergraduate experiences roughly doubled the odds of being engaged at work: 1) having at least one professor that made the student excited about learning, 2) having professors that cared about the student as a person, and 3) having a mentor who encouraged goals and dreams.

Building and maintaining a relationship with your advisor may take some initiative on your part to do so. Few advisors have time to get to know their advisees well during registration meetings alone, so make appointments throughout the term to talk with your advisor and seek advice as needed.

  • Be polite and address your advisor in person and in emails as “Professor” unless they tell you to do otherwise.
  • Get to know your advisor by asking appropriate questions about their background, education and interests. Here are some sample questions to get you started:
    • Where did you go to college? What was your experience like?
    • What is your research about? What inspired you to pursue that area of research?
    • What sorts of hobbies or other interests do you have? Do you have any tips for balancing academics and outside interests?
  • Get to know your associate advisor as well - they have valuable advice to share about classes and the MIT student experience.
  • Go beyond questions about classes. Your advisor can offer you guidance and support during your first year that can go beyond academics - advisors often share life experiences and can help you think through your important decisions.
  • Advocate for yourself. Be sure to talk with your advisor about what you might want/need from them as your first year progresses.
  • Work with your advisor to be part of any group meetings and contribute to conversations. If your advisor invites you to attend a dinner or event with your advising group, make time to participate. These social events are a fun way for you and your advisor to get to know each other.

See Advising Roles for details about your advising support network at MIT and what to expect.

Reference: Gallup-Purdue. (2014). Great Jobs, Great Lives. 1–28.