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Contacting a Potential Supervisor for Graduate School Application: Tips & Tricks

Having understood the roles of a supervisor and why they are important to the success of your graduate studies, it is time to contact and secure your potential supervisor. The article, Tips on How to Find a Potential Supervisor for Graduate School Application, explained the influence of a graduate supervisor to the admission decision, funding and completion of the program. As a result, it is important to take your to find a supervisor whose interests align with your proposed research interest. This article provides the tips and tricks on how to contact and secure a potential. That is, answer the question: How do I identify, contact and secure a potential supervisor for my research in graduate school? 

How to Identify A Potential Supervisor 

  • To identify a potential supervisor, you must first know what your field of research interest is. What area in your discipline are you looking to explore further? Is there proposed research topic you want to study? What is the research problem that you have identified and how do you seek to resolve this problem after your research is complete? Finally, how do you intend to study this topic? These are some of the questions you should think about and have clear and coherent answers to them before looking for a potential supervisor. It is important to have a clear and focused research proposal draft that aligns with a faculty member’s research area. This is because you need to identify someone who is an authority in your area of research so that they can best assist you with your research. 
  • Once you know your research area, – and if possible, your proposed research topic –  begin by reviewing the program and departmental website for the list of faculty members. You can find this information by looking for the “Faculty and Staff” tab or “People (In the Department)” tab. Review the faculty members in your discipline and identify the professors whose research areas align with your proposed area of research. You can then contact them via email to begin the process of securing your potential supervisor.

How to Contact A Potential Supervisor

Contacting the identified faculty member about a potential student-supervisor relationship should be conducted in a well orchestrated manner that will ensure success.  I will group this process into two main parts: things to include in your correspondence, and how to reach out. 

  • Documents To Include 

Note that, the first correspondence between you and your potential supervisor is explicitly through email – do not call their office lines. Their emails should be available on the departmental website. Before you reach out, be sure to have a one-page description (proposal) of your research interest. Specifically, you should answer the questions above about how to identify your research interest in your one-page proposal. Cite appropriately and if you can identify any academic papers done by the professor in that area, definitely read and inculcate a few into your one-page description. This is important, and will inform the professor that you have done some good research in the area and you are already familiar with his works. Remember to create a good first impression. 

Additional documents to include in your correspondence are your academic transcripts and your resume or Curriculum Vitae. Include transcripts from your previous recent studies, such as Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree. The attached documents will help the faculty member to know who you are and what your interest are. 

  • Contacting A Potential Supervisor 

To ensure the faculty member responds to your email, and ultimately, accept your request, there are a few “dos and don’ts” I will share with you. 1. Make sure that you personalize the email you are sending to the professor– be very clear and precise. 2. Briefly discuss your interests and experiences, and how they connect to your future plans and graduate school. 3. Also, explain why you want to work with them and what the research may look like.  4. Do not use form emails. 5. Additionally, do not copy and paste content from the supervisor’s web page to send to them. 6. Finally, keep your email short and focused on the concern you want to address, and use appropriate titles to address the professors. 


Contacting and securing a potential supervisor before applying into a program may be a mandatory requirement or not required at all. However, this article outlined some benefits reaching out and securing a potential supervisor could have on your admission and funding, even if the process is not a mandatory requirement. It also discussed the steps and tips to adopt in order to obtain success with securing a potential supervisor for your graduate studies. To ensure you are securing the right person, make sure you both discuss expectations and what is expected from the student-supervisor relationship. This is to ensure that you are both on the same page before making a decision to go ahead with the relationship.

In addition to this, you may also speak to current and former students who have previously worked with that supervisor to have a fair knowledge about their expectations and how working with them feels like. As I discussed at the beginning of this article, the graduate supervisor is a vital person in your graduate studies, and securing the right person will definitely impact your studies the right way.

See How to Write A Strong Statement of Purpose for Graduate School Application

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