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Tips on How to Find A Potential Supervisor for Graduate School Application

Finding a potential supervisor for your graduate school application is an important aspect of the application process. Whilst some universities and programs make this process mandatory, other schools and departments make it optional. Regardless of whether the process of finding a potential supervisor before applying to the program is required or optional, it is important to complete it. 

Research work forms an integral part of graduate school requirements, and identifying a potential supervisor before applying to the program only increases the chances of success. However, identifying a supervisor beforehand can be a bit stressful. Usually, applicants either omit this process entirely, or they do not address it the right way, which results in negative implications toward their applications. I will be discussing some tips for identifying and contacting a potential supervisor, as well as securing your potential supervisor.

The process is divided into three main questions with the aim of making the process easier for prospective applicants. The questions are as follows: Who is a graduate supervisor and what does a supervisor do? Why do I need to secure and list potential supervisors? How do I identify, contact and secure a potential supervisor? This article will answer the first two questions.

Who is a graduate supervisor, and what is their role? 

A graduate supervisor is someone who oversees your research work as a graduate student. They are responsible for setting your academic requirements, mentoring you and your research, and sometimes, co-authoring your research publications. Your supervisor is a crucial person in your graduate studies, and there is a great influence of your supervisor on your graduate student life, quality of your research, and the successful completion of your program. As a result, it is important to allow a reasonable time to identify and secure a potential supervisor who can contribute positively to your graduate studies. 

Why do I need to secure and list Potential Supervisors?

As mentioned earlier, some institutions or programs make the process of finding and listing potential supervisors a compulsory aspect of the application process, whereas, other schools make it optional or do not include it in the process at all. It is important to check the program-specific requirements of the selected school.

These are some reasons for finding and securing a potential supervisor:

Mandatory Program Requirement

It may be a requirement for the application process: Some schools make the process of contacting, securing and listing potential supervisor(s) a mandatory requirement for prospective applicants. Hence, it is important to consult the program website for the specific instruction regarding whether it is a requirement to contact a graduate supervisor beforehand. Again, this is very crucial to the success of your application, and you do not need to omit the process. 

Optional or Not Required

Whereas some schools or programs do not make the process mandatory, it is still advisable to complete this process if you are applying to a research-based program. There are numerous benefits that this has on the success of your application. Here are a few reasons:

  • A Chance to Know You 

Identifying and securing a supervisor before applying into the program gives the potential supervisor an opportunity to know you and what you are interested in doing. It is important to know that some of the faculty members are part of the admissions committee, and will be making the decisions. As a result, getting to know you and your research interests could impact your admission decision. 

  • Who Reviews Your Application

This is an opportunity for your application to be reviewed by faculty members from your research areas and determine whether there are funding opportunities for you. This is important, as there is nothing like too much funding for a graduate student. As a matter of fact, you need all the funding that can be made available for your graduate studies. 

  • Additional Research Funding

Given that faculty members often have access to grants and research fellowships for their research projects, securing a supervisor – working in an area that will contribute to his research – is an opportunity for the supervisor to award extra funding to your scholarships. So, take some time to reach out and secure a supervisor before applying to the program. 

  • Making a Good Impression

Identifying a potential supervisor before submitting your application indicates that you are well aware of the research interest you would explore if admitted to the program. It is an opportunity to inform the admissions committee about your research interest. Also, to make a case to the committee, including your potential supervisor, that you are a perfect fit for the program. Hence, being able to identity and secure a potential supervisor informs the admissions committee of your competence and preparedness for graduate school.

This is the first opportunity to make your case that you possess the requisite skills and techniques to complete the graduate program and contribute to the success of the program. 


Finding a potential supervisor before submitting a graduate school application contributes immensely to the success of your application. Although some departments and programs do not make the process a mandatory requirement, it is still important to secure a supervisor. The benefits are numerous, as discussed above, and it is an opportunity for you to check if there is an available faculty who may be interested in your project.

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