When applying to graduate training in psychology one of the application questions commonly asked is which mentors or faculty members you would prefer to work with. Figuring out how to answer that questions is and important part of how your graduate education will take shape. Choosing your faculty mentor or advisor is essentially like choosing a “major.” You will study under, work alongside, conduct research with and get mentoring from this faculty member for your entire course of study. So what are the questions you must ask when choosing a mentor?
What Is Each of the Mentors Focus Areas?
The most important part of the decision is choosing a mentor whose focus areas align with your own. If you have an interest in earning a specialization in child or developmental psychology it is important to find a mentor who has special training and research credentials in this area. Most schools make it very clear on the programs website what each faculty member defines as their specific areas of interest. In many cases the school allows potential candidates to reach out to faculty members about their interests in an effort to find a good match.
What Do Other Students Have to Say?
Another consideration is to do some digging into the reputation of faculty mentors. Websites like RateMyProfessor.com and Uloop.com allow students to see what previous students have said about their experiences with a faculty members. If everything you read is negative it might be worthwhile to consider another instructor.
What Direction Do I See My Career Going?
When making this important decision each student needs to think about what direction they want to take their career. If they see their career full of clients and therapy sessions, a mentor who focuses strongly on research might not be the best fit. Paying attention to not only the focus area of potential mentors, but also looking into where they spend the bulk of their time can help students make an informed decision.
Choosing the right faculty mentor will strongly influence the direction of your graduate training in psychology. Choosing a mentor who is inevitably not a good fit will mean you may not get as much out of your education as you would had the pairing been better. This is someone you will learn from and work very closely with so it will be make a big impact on how and what you learn. By paying attention to areas of specialization, the mentors reputation, where each mentor spends the bulk of their time and a few other considerations you can make an informed decision that suits your academic goals.