Individual Development Plan

Graduate school is about training you to ask and address new questions and discover your passion in science. Having honest and open discussions with your advisor is an important part of your training. As a graduate student, you own your education. That means not only being responsible for your dissertation, but also actively getting the training you need and seeking guidance from your mentors, who will support you as partners in your training. Filling out IDP forms will help you to formulate a plan for your training. Plans will change as you progress through your program, and therefore it is important that you revise your plan annually. Share your plans with your advisor and obtain their feedback. This process will assist you in getting off to a great start in graduate school and will provide you with milestones to track your progress.



Step back and self-assess!

It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.  The questions contained on these forms will be a starting point. You will want to have a good idea where you stand in your training before you select a thesis topic.


Once you have selected an advisor, set up a meeting.

You are responsible for scheduling and meeting with your advisor. It’s best to share your completed IDP form with your advisor before the meeting.


Lead the discussion.

The IDP covers topics students have found helpful. If you have questions or additional objectives related to your training, these meetings are a great time to bring them up.


Your advisor’s feedback is important.

Your meetings should be discussions.  As you present your plan,  ask your advisor for their input and advice.


Complete the “Action Plan” and follow up.

The last page of the IDP encourages you to establish concrete steps in the meeting with your advisor. Keep your Action Plan accessible and check on it every couple of months.


Record the date of your meeting.

Inform the Grad Studies office in your department that you have completed your IDP ( that will remain private between you and your advisor) and submit a copy of the Action Plan to the Graduate Studies Office.


Think intentionally about your training

You will find it helpful to think through what you want to get out of your training and how your advisor and other sources of support can help you achieve your goals.

Have open and direct dialogue

Starting off with strong, supportive communication is a fundamental part of getting continuous advice that will help guide you throughout your career.

Establish Clear Expectations

The IDP covers topics that students have found essential to discuss with their advisors. If you have additional questions or objectives related to your training, these meetings are a great time to bring them up and include them in your action plan.


Review  the lists of responsibilities below.  Share these lists with your advisor.   Discuss with your advisor any questions you may have regarding these responsibilities. These points are intended to help you understand where you should take ownership over your graduate training and how your advisor can help you reach your goals.

... take the primary responsibility for the successful completion of my degree.

... meet regularly with my advisor and provide her/him with updates on the progress and results of my activities and research progress.

... work with my research advisor to develop a thesis/dissertation project and select a thesis committee.

... initiate requests for feedback and seek advice from my advisor, committee, and other mentors.

... be knowledgeable of the policies and requirements of the Graduate School and of my departmental and/or interdisciplinary graduate program.

... attend and participate in research group meetings, seminars, and journal clubs.

... keep up with original literature in my field.

... be a good citizen by maintaining safe and clean work spaces and interacting collegially with everyone.

... maintain detailed, organized, and accurate notes in a format specified by my advisor.

... discuss work hours, sick leave, and vacation so that the policies are clear between myself and my advisor; provide my advisor with advanced notice of my planned absences; fill out leave forms.

... discuss policies on preparing manuscripts, authorship and attendance at professional meetings with my advisor.


... be committed to your student’s education and training as a future member of the scientific community.

... help to plan and direct your student’s research project, allowing the student to take ownership of the research; encourage collaboration within and outside the group.

 ... set reasonable goals and establish a timeline for completion.

... communicate with your student on an ongoing basis and meet regularly; ask for their input on the progress of their project.

... be committed to improving your skills as a mentor.

... be open and encourage your student to come to you with any concerns they may have.

... help find acceptable solutions to problems as they arise.

... be knowledgeable of, and guide your student through, the requirements/deadlines of their graduate program.

... advise and assist with your student’s thesis committee selection.

... lead by example and facilitate your student’s training in additional skills required of a successful scientist, including communication, writing, management, and ethical behavior.

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