Find your supervisor

The process of finding a supervisor is a very important one. Your relationship with your supervisor will directly impact the success of your graduate studies at Waterloo. Taking the time to find a supervisor who will complement your research and learning style will go a long way in ensuring your overall success. 

Please consider the following as you begin your search:

Do I need to find a supervisor before I apply?

Supervisors are not required for Waterloo professional coursework and professional online programs.

For Waterloo's research-based master's and doctoral programs, you'll find that some departments do not expect you to find a supervisor prior to applying while others do. Contact the department to determine if having a supervisor before you apply is required for your program.

Identify potential supervisors

Visit the department website, faculty listings page. Based on the faculty member’s area of research as well as current projects, develop a short list. Consider research interests as well as teaching styles when trying to determine your ideal match.

Review faculty member profiles to find potential supervisors with research interests similar to your own. 

Things to consider

Once you think you’ve found a match, be sure to review the faculty member’s CV, talk to them and to their former students so you can get a sense of what they might be like to work with.

  • Expertise – are they working in your area of research?
  • Experience – have they supervised many grad students?
  • Availability – how often will they meet with you? How do you get in touch with them?
  • Research/publishing – how often do they publish? How active is their research?
  • Personality and interpersonal skills – how well will you work together? 

Contact the department

While getting in touch with faculty members is a logical first step, also consider making contact with the program or department graduate coordinator for your program. In most cases this person, along with your supervisor, will be your main point of contact while you are completing your program. The graduate coordinator will be able to answer questions about program requirements, the admission process, supplemental materials, funding opportunities.

Contact your department/program graduate co-ordinator.

Contact a faculty member

When your list is complete and you’ve touched base with the program or department graduate coordinator it’s time to reach out and make contact! Approaching a faculty member by email is a good first step. Be sure to tailor your email and message to each faculty member. Your goal is to stand out and make them notice you – a great first impression.

  • Use proper letter format, formal salutations – Professor/Dr. (last name) and close with “Yours sincerely” followed by your full name and contact information
  • Attach your CV and current transcripts
  • Let them know what program you are applying to
  • Tell them why you're interested in graduate studies, include career goals, and be sure to highlight any research or leadership skills
  • If you have funding, advise them of the source, the value and the duration
  • Let them know why you have chosen them, why your research interests are a good match
    • Refer to specific published articles (by the professor) that interest you
  • Offer an opportunity for further discussion

Visit Waterloo

Taking the time to visit Waterloo will also allow you an opportunity to meet with your potential supervisor, department administrative staff as well as current students in person. Be sure to set up an appointment ahead of time if you plan to be on campus. Come prepared, have your questions thought out ahead of time.

If you are not able to visit, be sure to keep in touch via phone, email or video conference (Skype). Communicating at a distance can be more challenging but you still want to establish a personal connection. Show your potential supervisor why you want to work with them specifically.