How To Decide on an MS/PhD Advisor: A Survey of 100 Students


We asked 100 international students about how satisfied they are with their master's or Ph.D. advisors and the advice they would give themselves if they were to start over again.


Only 57% of the students could definitely say that their advisors make their lives better.




You can find the demographics of the survey here. To aid your decision, here are the unfiltered comments from our survey on choosing advisors.

Get engaged with your advisor and know them better to understand their expectations from us as grad students. Match that to your preference on how you want to be managed.

Find someone in line with your area of interest. Someone with an open mind especially about international students, someone who will care about your progress.

Try your best to avoid international professors. But if that’s whom you have, deal with it.

Pray! Good advisors are from God- because a professor's publications/lab may not be reflective of their interpersonal relationships. Also, ask old students questions about your prospective advisor. It really helps. Try to interact with your prospective professor via emails, phone calls, and video meetings- it could tell you tips about the professor's personality.

This is always a tricky question. But it would be helpful to reach out to 3 current students for their opinion. Depending on the field, publications might be apposite. Finally, ask about their last 5 past students and where/what they are doing now. Taken together, this information might be apposite to making a decision.

Make sure you are passionate about your advisor’s area of specialization and just not interested because he/she has funding.

Visit and pay attention to what they are telling you about how they work. Reach out to some of their past graduates, especially the ones that may have been dissatisfied

Choose someone who has once been in your shoes, that understands the struggle of grad school and grad life as an international student.

My research interest led me to a bad advisor. Do not restrict yourself to one research interest. Changing advisor gives you more enemies within the same department

The best advisor isn't necessarily the most "renowned" advisor! Speak to older graduate students who can give you candid information about the mentoring capabilities of your prospective advisor.

Ask around, don’t be too impatient when choosing.

Get engaged with your advisor and know them better to understand their expectations from us as grad students.

If possible, consult with graduate students that are in the program to have an idea of your prospective supervisor's personality.

Make sure the person is ready to work with you 💯 and push you to be better.

Talk to former or current students.

Start early! Look out seriously and communicate clearly.

Check his/her track record and believe what you hear.

A personal relationship with your advisor is more important than the science.

Ensure that your advisor has an incredible research background, preferably in your area; make sure your advisor has great engagement with international students/communities.

Choose someone who shows interest in your life in school and home. Someone who pushes you to achieve.

Let them walk through a proposed plan. It will tell you how much they actually know and care. Then talk to your seniors and finalize your plan based on the above.

They should consider the history of the professor’s lab, his relationship with and tutorship of his past students before considering the alignment of their preferred research area to his/her research.

Choosing the advisor is the most important step before grad school.

Choose someone who has the same research background or area of expertise that you want to do once you graduate.

Look for a mentor who is available. Don’t go after "big names".

Someone experienced in the field.

Work with someone you can have a good relationship with. You are likely going to work with that person for a quite long time!

Ask around especially their current students.

Find an advisor with mutual agreement and a goal.

Interview them multiple times before you make your final call.

Beyond just making sure that you share research goals, try to study their personality and be sure that you are okay with it. You cannot know everything but the little you know is enough to start. Look them up on social media, LinkedIn, etc if you must choose your advisor before you start the program.

Choose someone with your interest at heart, someone who’s aware of the cultural differences.

Spend time in their lab before committing to their mentorship. Ask about previous students, and where they are now.

Pick someone who has previous experience of what you’re interested in doing in the future.
Try to interact with your prospective professor via emails, phone calls, and video meetings- it could tell you tips about the professor's personality.

Find a caring person and someone who genuinely wants you to succeed.

Speak to previous alumni of the potential advisor.
This is your most important decision. Ask enough questions before joining a Group.

Related: Top 10 Questions To Ask A Potential Advisor

Please ask former students to give their sincere opinion about their advisors. I know that most people will not risk saying anything bad, but there will be subtle comments that can guide you. You will notice a tendency if you ask several people for their opinion.

Funding is not enough. You need to have a really good person as your advisor. Speak with their current students if you have the opportunity to. Get to know about the person before making a decision. It's very important.

Choose an advisor who is culturally diversified and understanding.

Not just the research/area of expertise, always check with fellow grad students, regarding how the advisor treats his students.

Communicate to the advisor first. Do some research on the advisor's projects. If you are interested in the project, life will be easier and happier.

Ask the previous students ALWAYS.

Choose someone who is also interested in what you want to achieve as a professional.

Do your research on the kind of work they do so that you don’t end up overwhelmed.

Think of the area you are passionate about. Think about what you want to be after school. What do you really want in your life? Is your Advisor’s experience a good match with your need?

Visit and talk to the students in the lab and get their opinions.

Go for mentorship especially when you have an opportunity to try to rotate in labs, love for the subject matter will come later on.

Ask questions about the advisor from current students and ensure you know how you will love to be managed.

The Research area must resonate with you. Check out the trajectories of past students.

Pay attention to the advisor mentoring style rather than the research.
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