Questions Frequently Asked by Mentees

  • What types of assistance should mentors be able to provide?

Mentors may be able to provide advice on coursework, research projects, important degree milestones and timelines, professional protocol, resumes, interview styles, etc. They are also experts in the graduate student experience outside research and classes; they know what it is like to deal with the confusion, uncertainty, and stress of graduate school. They are available to actively listen, keep an open mind, and encourage action.

  • How much is too much to ask of a mentor, in terms of time devoted to me?

For non-emergency concerns, the best way to answer this question is to think about how you would feel in their place. Mentors have volunteered to serve as resources for Scholars. Whenever you have a concern, it is fine to ask their advice, because that is why they are a good resource. You may want to organize a somewhat regular meeting schedule that is convenient for both of you where you can share your questions. These meetings can be over lunch, coffee, or a phone/video call. If you feel a mentor is hard to interrupt, try email, which can be answered when time permits and can be followed up in person at a mutually convenient time.

  • Should I seek help from another mentor if I don’t think a current mentor is best able to help me?

We encourage you to build connections with other mentors; this is exactly what the mentor network is for. It is likely, as you progress in your program, you will meet new people, your interests will change, etc. This may mean that you find other mentors that you go to more often for advice. Please mention to your original mentor that you’ve met others with whom you have some common ground, so that your mentor is assured that you have the resources you need. If severe mentor/mentee problems occur, consult the mentoring coordinator, or a counselor at Student Health Services.

  • What can an alumni mentor offer beyond any other graduate students I interact with (in my lab, classes, etc.)?

The alumni mentor is not meant to replace other students, advisors, faculty, etc. from whom you get advice. An alumni mentor is just one more person in your support network during your graduate career. Having a mentor to talk to who is not involved with your advisor or your research can be beneficial in obtaining an outside, confidential perspective. They may also be able to refer you to the right office or person on campus when an issue is beyond their expertise.  WashU’s Dissertation Support can be a great resource for doctoral students in the final stages of their degree.