All graduate students are assigned faculty advisers in their major areas of study who will assist them with planning first-year courses. Advisers will also supervise research during the first year. Although many students maintain the same adviser past the first year and/or make this person the chair of their Supervisory Committees (in the case of doctoral students), this is not required. You should feel free to pursue work with another faculty member should one better fit with your educational goals. In addition, you can turn to any faculty member regarding specific issues; for instance, you may meet with someone who is doing research in an area of common interest. Such informal advising — without formally changing advisers — is common and highly encouraged.

Faculty have a range of teaching, research, and community service responsibilities, so you may find that making an appointment works best when contacting them. Students who have difficulties meeting with a faculty adviser should speak to the Graduate Program Coordinator or Graduate Program Adviser.

How to Have Productive & Successful Meetings with Your Faculty Adviser

Establishing a positive and productive relationship with your faculty adviser is a critical step in achieving graduate school success. You can begin this relationship by planning your first meeting(s) ahead of time so that you discuss the topics that are important to you. Use the following checklist for self-reflection and to plan initial meetings with your adviser in light of what you identify as your goals and expectations for graduate school.

Prior to the first conversation(s):

  • Make an initial appointment to meet with your adviser. Emails are usually best, so email your adviser about two weeks ahead of time. Suggest some days/times that you are available, using your maximum availability.
  • Develop, review, and/or revise your goals for graduate school. This should become a regular part of your preparation for meetings with your adviser. 
  • Come prepared with an agenda. It will help your adviser if you send the agenda to her/him in advance. In an email, write one to two sentences describing the main objectives of your meeting. Plan on keeping the meeting to about 30 minutes; if you don’t get to everything, schedule another meeting.
  • Provide materials ahead of time. If there is anything you would like your adviser to review before the meeting, send it to her/him well ahead of time.  

During the first conversation(s):

There are many possible topics you could discuss during your first meeting with your adviser. Again, consider which topics are important for a positive and productive advising relationship, and make an effort to keep your meeting to about 30 minutes.

  • Discuss expectations about how often you and your adviser should meet and at what points during the year. 
  • Share your goals worksheet. Explore useful professional development experiences in view of these goals. 
  • Discuss how your adviser might assist you in achieving your academic and career goals. Examples might include locating funding for your education, gaining relevant teaching or research experience, or finding peer mentors.
  • Make your adviser aware of any personal issues that may influence how and when you complete the milestones toward your degree. This might include planned travels, employment obligations, family circumstances, and so on.
  • Ask your adviser what structure she/he prefers for regular reflection with you on your goals, achievements, and areas for improvement.
  • Review the courses you might take during your first one to two quarters. After you have talked with your adviser about your broad and general areas of interest, work together to identify the courses you could take. While it might be helpful to have a draft Course of Study ready for your adviser to review, it’s not necessary during your first meeting(s). It might even be premature, since your interests will develop and adjust over time. 

After the first conversation(s):

  • Draft an action plan after the first meeting(s) that reflects different professional development needs at different stages of your graduate program. Share this with your adviser at your next meeting. 
  • Amend your action plan as necessary throughout your academic career.

Planning for your first meeting(s): An exercise

You’re likely to have initial correspondence with your adviser over email prior to your first quarter. In that initial correspondence, you should explore what courses you should take. It will helpful to have courses in mind, but ask for her/his feedback before registering.

Your first in-person meeting with your adviser is likely to take place once your first quarter is underway. Use this exercise to help plan that meeting.

Planning for the meeting:

Date (approximate) you would like the meeting to take place: _________________
Date you will contact your adviser to make an appointment (at least two weeks ahead of time): _________________
Date you will send your adviser the agenda and any items you would like her/him to review (at least one week ahead of time): _________________

Setting the agenda:

List the three or four main topics you would like to discuss with your adviser, and be sure to share this list ahead of time. In general, you’ll want to try to keep your meeting to about 30 minutes.

Topic: Time Allotted:
_____________________________________________ ___________________
_____________________________________________ ___________________
_____________________________________________ ___________________
_____________________________________________ ___________________
_____________________________________________ ___________________

Additional tips & helpful information:

  • Remember, your adviser is very busy and has many things on her/his plate — other advisees to visit, courses to plan and prepare, research to conduct, meetings to attend, and so on. 
  • Use the subject line of your email to catch her/his attention; for example: “Advising appointment request — Jane Smith.”
  • If your adviser doesn’t respond within 5-10 business days, try sending your email again. 
  • If you still don’t hear back and your questions are urgent, contact the area staff to see if they can help locate your adviser or find someone who can help you temporarily.
  • Show up for your meeting on time and prepared. This will demonstrate to your adviser that you value her/his time and that you take your graduate studies seriously.
  • Ask clarifying questions as needed during your meeting. It’s not helpful to you or your adviser if you leave your meeting feeling unsure about expectations or next steps.