Graduate Students - Best Advising Practices and Resources

Best Advising Practices for Graduate Student Success

The College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences wants graduate students to be successful and recommends following best practices for graduate students and their advisors. Please contact your graduate program office for requirements specific to your program.

Establish milestones for academic and research progress

Student’s and advisor’s joint responsibility

Within 60 days: Discuss and agree upon milestones to track student progress

By 2nd semester for M.S. student and no later than 2nd year for Ph.D. student: Establish advisory and/or exam committee(s) (program dependent) and develop a course work plan

Annually: Document and review student progress

Advisor’s responsibility

Communicate expectations with respect to independence, and how student is to function in the fairly unstructured graduate school environment

Clarify availability of continued funding (e.g., assistantship or fellowship)

Student’s responsibility

Clearly understand your own motivations for going to graduate school!

Seek alternative or supplemental funding, as needed

Consult the director of graduate studies or plan level coordinator to ensure that program requirements are met on time

Maintain open lines of communication and provide timely feedback

Student’s and advisor’s responsibility

Discuss an optimum meeting frequency and meet regularly, weekly or at least monthly

Establish written expectations and schedules; update as necessary as the degree program progresses, or with changing circumstances

Advisor’s responsibility

Comment on student’s work (reports, draft posters, seminar presentations, manuscripts, etc.) within 30 days

Communicate developments that may impact time to degree (e.g., planned absences or sabbaticals, or termination of funding)

Understand cultural differences that might affect communication

Student’s responsibility

Submit progress reports, draft posters or seminar presentations, manuscripts, thesis drafts and other research work in a timely manner

Inform adviser of changes in schedule, including any paid or unpaid leave

Seek help from advisor or from other sources (see next page) to resolve difficulties

Understand the terms and conditions of graduate assistant employment

Student’s and advisor’s responsibility

Ensure that offer letters and terms of employment are understood

Comply with business practices of the department

Advisor’s responsibility

Understand graduate student rights

Provide a safe work environment free from intimidation, humiliation, or harassment

Student’s responsibility

Complete any required training (e.g., safety, responsible conduct of research, ethics) in a timely manner

Develop research ideas and graduate student career goals

Student’s and advisor’s responsibility

Agree on the scope and sequence of thesis research (thesis proposal) and engage at all stages

Clarify expectations for multiple tasks (e.g., teaching, work/life balance)

Develop student career goals; revisit and revise periodically

Advisor’s responsibility

Give constructive feedback on student’s research ideas

Mentor students as they apply for jobs and advise on effects to their degree plan

Student’s responsibility

Keep a journal of research ideas and activities

Seek professional development opportunities

Connect with the larger campus and professional community

Student’s and advisor’s responsibility

Recognize and respect cultural differences

Seek opportunities for leadership and professional development skills such as: public speaking, research ethics, working across differences, collaboration, conflict resolution, and data management

Advisor’s responsibility

Help students network with colleagues at other institutions

Support student participation in scientific conferences, campus seminars and on committees within USU and CAAS

Student’s responsibility

Attend campus seminars and events

Serve on committees within USU and CAAS

Participate in graduate student orientation and recruitment activities

Participate in scientific conferences (find external travel funding, as needed)

Graduate Student Rights

An academic environment that is free from intimidation, humiliation, and harassment.

Working within the number of hours appropriate for your appointed position. 

The standard 50% assistantship requires an average of 20 hours of work per week at the discretion of the faculty advisor when school is in session (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, USU Graduate Assistant Employment Policy). This work requirement is in addition to time spent on coursework and/or thesis work.

Timely review and return of manuscripts and thesis drafts (i.e., 30 days).

Paid and unpaid leaves (i.e. parental, holiday, sick, bereavement, military, court appearance, jury duty, voting, reasonable religious and disability accommodations) are at the discretion of the advisor and department head.

Leave of absence in emergency situations.

Completion of an agreed upon CAAS Scholarly Work Agreement, to resolve issues regarding research or academic performance.

Assistance when dealing with difficult situations, without concern for retaliation or punishment.

Additional Help for Students

Use available resources if you have concerns about your academics, faculty adviser, or work environment. Do not wait to seek help. In case of an emergency, call 911 or USU Police, 435-797-1939.

Speak to your faculty advisor first if you are comfortable doing so; address problems directly and honestly.

To discuss a matter confidentially, please contact the Division of Student Affairs

When you feel it is inappropriate to contact your faculty advisor, consult your Director of Graduate Studies,

Program Level Coordinator, or the USU Division of Student Affairs for assistance. Use your best judgment in deciding which course of action is right for you.

International students should consult with International Student and Scholar Services in the Office of Global Engagement when dealing with conflicts or concerns.

USU Counseling and Consulting Services

Counseling and Consulting | (435) 797-1012 (For mental health emergencies, call 911)

Student Health & Wellness

Health and Wellness | (435)797-1660 (For physical health emergencies, call 911)

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

LatinX Cultural Center | (435) 797-4160

Disability Resource Center | (435) 797-2444

Inclusion Center | (435) 797-1728

Student Employment Services

Career Design Center

Academic Student Support Services (SSS)

Apply for TRIO

International Students

International Students | (435) 797-0283

Visiting Scholars

Visiting Scholars | (435) 797-1124

Academic Success Programs


Test Taking

Study Smarter

Supplemental Instruction

Student Support Courses

Safety and Preparedness

Personal Escort Service/Lock-Out/Feeling Unsafe | (435) 797-1939

Aggie Safe App/USU Alerts

Reporting safety concerns or crimes | (435) 797-1939

Student Conflict Resolution

Conflict Resolution