Sample Ethics Essay Paper on Effective Mentoring Relationship vs. Effective Advising Relationship

Effective Mentoring Relationship vs. Effective Advising Relationship

            Graduate school forms an important foundation in building the future careers of students. It is while in graduate school that students establish and maintain important professional and social networks and relationships that may last them a lifetime. Whether with fellow students, tutors or established professionals these networks and relationships are critical in gaining the match-need industry and academic knowledge and general life perspectives. For students, the institution’s community provides a rich environment to tap into when it comes to establishing these relationships. Advisors and mentors are members of this community who can use their experience and knowledge to help students excel academically and professionally.

Tenets of Effective Mentoring and Advising Relationships

            The swapping of the use of the words ‘mentoring’ and ‘advising’ is born out of the interchangeability and overlapping of roles played by advisors and mentors. Mentors perform a wide ranging roles aggregated as ‘guiding’. They guide students on important aspects of their academic and personal life. Additionally, they play a critical role in shaping the professional life of the student. On the other hand, student advisors provide direction to the students on issues pertaining to their academic life including adherence to the college policies especially those governing academics. However, it is possible for the advisor to double up as a mentor leading to a dual relationship between the roles. Mentorship is an amorphous relationship with almost limitless boundaries as it calls for going beyond the academic and professional guidance. Despite this apparent dualism and overlapping in the roles, there are fundamental differences that distinguish them especially when the effectiveness of these relationships is considered (Mays, 2011).

            One of the defining characteristics of an effective mentoring or advising relationship is respect. Treating students with dignity is an important step towards ensuring that the mentoring or advising relationship flourishes. It reduces cases of conflict and misunderstanding which may paralyze the whole relationship. In an effective mentoring relationship marked by respect, students are considered as collaborators and not extras in a play where the mentor is the main character. As genuine collaborators, such students have the chance to thrive under the tutelage of the mentor who guides them in all the steps they take. Decisions made in such a relationship are reached through a collaborative effort. Students are encouraged by the mentor to choose their own direction in some cases. They are encouraged to discover and gain important insights on their personal and professional life on their own. This is because mentors’ primary focus is the student and therefore understands what motivates the student and willfully respect them (Lee, Dennis & Campbell, 2007).

            In contrast, advisors focus on providing direction based on the set rules and regulations. When effective, students in an advising relationship has defined roles and is mostly expected to operate within a defined space. Respect for the rules and regulations is critical in an effectively functioning advising relationship. Decisions are made following the directives given by the advisor and must follow the rules and regulations of the college and the informal and formal rules governing the relationship. The emphasis on rules and regulations as the foundation of respect means that decision making does not require collaboration between advisor and the student. Rather basing the relationship on what motivates the students, advisors focus on the directives and the ability of the students to follow them (Mays, 2011).

            An effective mentoring relationship is also marked by building close interpersonal relationships built on concern for the student’s personal growth and development into a refined professional and member of the society. Mentors become trusted allies of the students who passionately offer guidance on various academic and non-academic issues. Therefore, it is not uncommon for some mentors to treat the students as family and extend their relationship beyond the learning duration. They offer their perspectives and guidance with a positive outlook, enthusiasm and passion. An effective mentor ought to be aware and hence, sensitivity to the needs of the student, their changing environment and how such changes affect them academically and personally. In such a relationship, mentors unselfishly go out of their way to foster the careers of students through magnanimity and equipping students with the required skills in order to excel. An effective mentoring relationship thrives on compassion and the ability of the mentors to link students with their extensive networks. This is especially crucial considering that mentors serve as role model to the students who are interested in the field they specialize in (Lee, Dennis & Campbell, 2007). 

            However, advising relationships do not necessarily require the formation of interpersonal relationships to thrive effectively. They thrive on providing students with usable and accurate information regarding various aspects of the student’s academic life in relation to the university policy. Effective advisors therefore work within the scheduled time and constructively listen to the challenges faced by the students with regards to their academic life. They offer useful referrals to the student in case the problem is not within the field of their specialization. The relationship thrives on respect for the professional boundaries between the advisor and student.

            In conclusion, mentors and advisors play critical roles in the growth and development of students into reputable professionals. Despite their overlapping roles in the lives of students, the two execute their duties in two distinct forms. Consequently, there is a branching in the functions of a mentor and advisor. Moreover, the differential approach leads to differences in how the two impact the lives of students. Mentors usually form long term relationships with the students and sometimes treat the students as part of their extended families. They are more compassionate and passionate about the lives of their students. Their dedication to advancing the careers of the students sees them take an all-encompassing approach to their work. Advisors, on the other hand, are more rules and policy oriented. Instead of guiding, they give students directives on how to handle their academic challenges based on the university policies. As such their relationships rarely extend beyond the academic sphere and rarely require developing and maintaining interpersonal relationships.

            These differences are crucial in discerning what constitutes an effective mentoring or advising relationship. The amorphous and all-encompassing nature of mentoring demands that mentors to be sensitive in order to effectively execute their duties. Moreover, effective mentorship relationship is hinged on building a collaborative environment where students are considered as collaborators. Students enjoy significant autonomy especially when it comes to decision making. On the other hand, an effective advising relationship is built on following rules and university guidelines. Success is hinged on the ability of the advisor to balance between being tough and caring and encouraging the students while giving direction to the students.     


Lee, A., Dennis, C. & Campbell, P. (2007). Nature’s guide for mentors. Nature, 447(14): 791 – 797.

Mays, A. (2011). The differences between “advisors” and “mentors”. ASAS. Retrieved from: