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

If you are interested in a thesis-based graduate program, your relationship with your supervisor will directly impact your success. It's important to take the time to find a supervisor who will complement your research and learning style. Learn more about supervisory roles and responsibilities in the Guide for Graduate Research and Supervision.

Before 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 your department/program graduate co-ordinator to determine if having a supervisor before you apply is required for your program.

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

Identify potential supervisors

For a list of prospective faculty members, visit the department website. 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, connect with 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 – are they accepting new students? How often will they meet with you?
  • Research/publishing – how often do they publish? How active is their research?
  • Personality and interpersonal skills – how well will you work together? 

Contact a faculty member

Approaching a faculty member by email is a good first step. Be sure to tailor your email and message to each potential supervisor. 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
  • Tell them 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
  • Tell them why you have chosen them, why your research interests are a good match. Refer to their publications that interest you.
  • Offer an opportunity for further discussion