How To Contact A Potential Supervisor

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A successful academic schooling requires that you have academic supervisors. While some schools require that you find one before applying to the program, some others will assign you an academic supervisor after you have gotten into the program. 

You must find out what your program or university’s mode of operation is while you are still researching the course to apply for.  This will help you get the necessary information required ahead of time.

This article will teach you how to contact a potential academic supervisor. It’s on the premise that your program requires that you find an academic supervisor and get in touch with the person.

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Who is an Academic Supervisor?

An academic supervisor is a member of the faculty who offers guidance to one or more graduate study students in a study program. In other words, the supervisor is likely to be a professor who lectures or is part of the faculty management where the student is studying.

The supervisor is very much engaged in the program that the student is doing right from when the student is admitted into the program up until the student gets his or her certificate. The supervisor is the student’s guardian angel. Hence, it’s important to do your research properly before choosing an Academic Supervisor.

Roles of An Academic Supervisor

An academic supervisor has 3 major roles in addition to other general roles he or she plays in the life of the student. These roles are:

  • Advisory
  • Monitoring
  • Mentoring

Advisory: the supervisor is to advise the student. He is to guide the student on what to do, give instructions where necessary, and also give encouragement where strength is failing. He is to be like a compass to the student and most importantly, make himself available to his student for easy accessibility.

Monitoring: the supervisor is to monitor the student’s progress. I believe that if your student is failing because of your way of guidance, it reflects poorly on you. While the advisory role is very important, monitoring is equally important.

When the supervisor monitors the progress of the student academically, he can detect where the student is lacking and can guide how to meet up. This particular role is highly important.

Mentoring: as far as the student’s program from the year of acceptance till graduation is concerned, the supervisor is the student’s mentor. Having passed through this stage and program at one time in his education, the supervisor can detect some pitfalls or red flags or even potential success ladders that the student can use to have a successful academic year.

In addition to the 3 roles mentioned earlier, academic supervisors take part in the evaluation and examination of their student’s progress, performance and navigation through the requirements of their academic program to ensure that their students are successful.

They also foster intellectual and scholarly development of their students and give guidance for professional development, as well as career and non-career opportunities. All these show that an academic supervisor is very much involved in the life of the student in the course of his or her school years.

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Is it Necessary to Have An Academic Supervisor?

Having an academic supervisor is very necessary. It is just like the textbooks and materials you use when studying a course. The materials tell you what the course is about and enlightens you about it.

An academic supervisor is more important than that. He is your guide as far as the program you are studying is concerned. He helps you to keep to the university’s rules and regulations about your study for you to finish well and come out with a good grade.

Your academic supervisor will help you in the selection of subjects relevant to your course and even advise you on after-school or extra-curricular activities that will boost your chances of smiling home at the end of your studies.

Simply put,  an Academic Supervisor is very important as you pursue your studies.

How To Choose An Academic Supervisor

Now that you know who an academic supervisor is and how important he is to your studies, let’s go over how to choose one.

It’s important that you carefully choose who your academic supervisor will be. This is because, if you don’t choose well it will possibly affect how well you do in school and in that program. You need to choose someone capable and also willing to nurture you. 

There are two ways of getting an academic supervisor but first, you have to know what your research topic will be about. This is what will help you determine who will be the best fit to guide you. You could get a supervisor either by applying for an advertised position or by selecting one for yourself.

 In the case of an advertised position, the professor already has a topic he or she is working on and is looking for a student to work on it with. So knowing what you want to work on will help you decide which advertisement to respond to and which one not to respond to.

When you are selecting your supervisor, it requires much more work. To guide you in selecting your academic supervisor, below is a list of things to do.

  • Know your topic
  • Assess their supervision experience
  • Ask students for their opinion
  • Arrange a visit

Know your topic: before you start choosing an academic supervisor, you have to know the topic you want to work on. Knowing your topic is your first turn in the right direction. It will help you narrow down your options. 

Research your topic and in the case where a potential academic supervisor has published an article, you can also put his or her name on the list of your potential academic supervisor. It’s important to note that what the professor worked on years before may not be what he or she wants to work on now. 

Assess their supervision experience: having decided on the topic and made a list of potential academic supervisors, the next thing is to assess their supervision experience. You can check their profile and see if they have supervised anyone before.

A supervisor should possess skills like people management, patience, mentoring, etc. These are skills that will help you determine if the supervisor will be good for you. If a professor possesses these skills and has not supervised anyone before, you can try him/her. He or she could end up being the best for you.

Ask students for their opinion: in the case of professors who have supervised before or even supervising currently, you should ask their students questions. You can ask how accessible, patient, mentorship, etc. of the professor is.

Their students are the best people to tell you about how they supervise. So endeavor to ask questions and also relevant questions.

Arrange a meeting: after you have streamlined your options, arrange a meeting with the professors that have made it to your list. The meeting could be virtual or not, depending on your proximity to the professor. During the meeting, you can ascertain their availability. After determining their availability, you can further cut down on the potential supervisors.

After going through these processes, then choose which supervisor that you connect with more. Remember that you’re academic supervisor is your number 1 go-to person so make sure that you take your time with the selection process.

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How To Contact A Potential Academic Supervisor

Arranging a meeting with the potential supervisors who made it to your list is the next thing to do after your research on potential supervisors. To arrange this meeting, you need to contact them.  The best way to contact your potential academic supervisors is through email.

The email has to be an official email and at this point, I believe you must have done your research on the professors whom you have chosen. The information obtained will help you tailor an acceptable email.

Emailing Guide

  • Use a clear subject line to indicate the reason for your email. For example “Prospective Student- Population Studies, Human Demographics Ph.D.
  • Address the professor properly. For example: “Dear Dr. Philip” or “Dear Professor Obi”.
  • Introduce yourself, your academic qualifications and your level of experience, and what program you are applying for. For example, My name is Mr. Uche Ado, a graduate of Biotechnology with experience and interest in the food processing industry. I am applying to the master’s program for Organic food processing program.
  • State why you are interested in graduate studies including career goals and also state clearly any research or leadership experience and skills you may have.
  • In the case where you already have means of funding your research, state the amount and duration and the source.
  • Write out why you are approaching each of the professors and why their research interests and yours are alike or a good match. To further boost your reasons, you can refer to any publications or articles that they have written that interested you the most.
  • Offer an opportunity for further discussions through any means convenient for them and also thank them for their time.
  • Close the email with ” Yours sincerely” and write your full name and contact information below it

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Questions To Ask Potential Supervisors

After emailing them and you have been granted a meeting, you can ask the following questions for a better understanding of the professor and your compatibility 

  • Capacity: find out if the professor has graduate students currently, if he or she has many of them and if he or she is looking for more students.
  • What to expect: find out the professor’s working hours, frequency of student-supervisor meetings, group meetings, reports, contribution to general duties, etc.
  • Expected attendance at journal clubs, seminars, etc., aside from the official requirements for the graduate program.
  • Financial Considerations: stipend, presentation/attendance at conferences
  • Conventions on Authorship
  • Review of written work: talks about the extent of the supervisor’s involvement with the student’s presentation, thesis preparation, time frame for the return of comments, etc.
  • Supervisory Style: how do they supervise their students
  • Student Success: find out how many students they have supervised till graduation, if the students finished their program in good time, how many of their students have published their work, and how well their students have done in the job market.
  • Personality: is the professor’s personality similar to yours or something you can tolerate. While the reason you want the professor to be your academic supervisor is official and serious, there has to be a form of friendliness and comfort that makes for easy communication. 

A Sample of Email Sent To A Potential Supervisor

Dear Dr Chukwuka,

My name is  Humphrey Morrison, a graduate research assistant at the Department of Petroleum Engineering, University of Aberdeen. I am interested in pursuing a PhD in the Department of Petroleum Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines and I’m delighted to write to you concerning a prospective student opportunity under your tutelage for a fall 2022 prospective student under your supervisor and tutelage.

I took a keen interest in your area of research after going through your page (add link to lecturers page) which aligns with my research interests particularly enhanced oil recovery and flow assurance. Reading several papers of yours on enhanced oil recovery process, I was captivated by your research on alkali-surfactant-polymer flooding.

 Also, on your paper related to gas hydrate formation, I found the paper titled ‘’A transient simulation model to predict Hydrate formation rate in both oil-and-water dominated system in pipelines’’ very insightful to learn how the transient hydrate formation model predicts hydrate transportability and growth which might be present simultaneously in oil and gas pipelines due to changes in fluid distribution in complex multiphase flow systems.

During my Bachelor’s degree, I worked on ‘’improving oil recovery in oil rim reservoirs using smart wells and simultaneous gas and water injection’’ which exposed me to IOR/EOR having obtained a CGPA of 4.66/5.00. I am on the verge of obtaining my master’s degree in offshore and subsea engineering and my Master’s thesis is tailored to solving flow assurance problems particularly hydrates. As a graduate teaching and research assistant, I have mentored several students in research in which the most notable research is ‘’ Developing an environmentally friendly oil-based mud using Almond Oil, Castor oil and Groundnut Oil’’. This paper is yet to be published but was presented at the International Field Exploration and Development Conference 2021 held in Qingdao, China from 16th to 18th September 2021. I have an excellent experience using Eclipse, Microsoft Excel and MATLAB.

My passion to learn further, solve problems and make a significant contribution as an independent researcher drives me towards a PhD study. I would very much appreciate the opportunity to work under your supervision and would greatly appreciate it if you could review my attached documents (CV and academic transcripts) and let me know what the possibilities might be.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Humphrey Morrison


Your first contact with your potential academic supervisor is through your email and you have to ensure that what you write captivates the professor enough to even agree to arrange a meeting with you. Therefore, make it very catchy.

Keep in mind also that a good academic supervisor is instrumental to your success and finally, graduation. So take your time and do your research before embarking on contacting. Also, pay attention to each email you send to each professor to ensure that you don’t mix up their information. This already spells failure if it happens.

Remember that the professor is busy and would likely not read your email early enough. So after sending in the first email and got no reply from the professor, you have to write a follow-up email to the professor. 

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Igbojianya Oluchukwu

Content is the life of anything that works in life. It can be written, visual, audio, or a combination of all forms. It is my duty and pleasure to give you valuable content. I am Igbojianya Oluchukwu, a Content Creator and Writer.


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