A supervisor is a professor who oversees your research and the development of your thesis. They provide mentorship, support, and guidance throughout your studies. 

Your relationship with your supervisor will be an important factor in your experience and success as a graduate student. Focus on finding a supervisor who shares your research interests, complements your research and learning style, and supports you in your research and academic goals.

Learn more about supervisory roles and responsibilities in the Guide for Graduate Research and Supervision.

This video will help you as you prepare to research, contact, and select a supervisor for your graduate studies.

Do you need a supervisor?

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

Some research-based master's and doctoral programs require a supervisor prior to applying while others may assign a supervisor once you have started in your program. Contact your department/program graduate co-ordinator to determine if having a supervisor before you apply is required for your program.

Your graduate coordinator will be able to answer questions about program requirements, the admission process, supplemental materials, and funding opportunities.

Looking for a supervisor

Visit Faculty or Department websites to learn more about faculty members in your desired field. Faculty profiles or websites will often provide details about conference participation, course instruction, publications, and CVs. Consider how your research interests and experience may intersect with a faculty member's and identify opportunities to expand you knowledge in a desired area.

Use your findings to create a shortlist of potential supervisors to explore further.

    Contacting potential supervisors

    The next step is to contact the supervisors on your list. Be sure to tailor your email for each potential supervisor. Your goal is to stand out and generate interest in working with you.

    • 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
    • Specify the program for which you are applying
    • Ask if they are accepting graduate students under their supervision for your desired admit term
    • If you already have funding or a scholarship, specify the source, value, and duration
    • Explain your interest in graduate studies, your academic and career goals, and your research experience
    • Explain your interest in the faculty member and discuss how your research aligns with theirs (this can be a great way to differentiate yourself and make a strong case for your candidacy)
    • Suggest a follow-up meeting with options for date and time

    Meeting potential supervisors

    Once you hear back from an interested potential supervisor, you may wish to arrange for a phone call or virtual meeting. We suggest using that time to learn more about the faculty member’s experience, expectations, and availability.