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How to Talk to Your Adviser

Sending emails is gross. Cold-contacting someone to ask for a favor is gross. Asking for help – gross. The thing is, when you’re in college and you need help, you need to do all of those things. Recently, a friend basically had heart palpitations over contacting their adviser about grad school stuff, and while understandable, it isn’t necessary! Advisers in general should not be terrifying people. They are literally getting paid to help you out.

Be calm. I promise you, advisers are not scary. If your adviser is genuinely bad at their job, request a new one! But most advisers know what they’re doing, and honestly most people like to help others out. So take a deep breathe and write that email.

Be polite. Address your adviser as “Dr.,” if they have a doctorate, “Professor,” if they’re faculty but don’t have a doctorate, or “Mr./Ms.” if they are neither. If you don’t know, “Professor” is a safe bet. Use good grammar and email-writing technique.

Be clear. What, exactly, is your question? If your question is that you don’t know what questions you should be asking, say so! The more you can give your adviser to work with, the better they’ll be able to help you.

If you want a meeting, ask for their availability. Don’t include a paragraph of your own availability unless they request it. It’s more polite to work around when they are available, as it’s likely they have at least as many, if not more, claims to their time as you have.

Have someone else hit send if necessary. Once the email is written, JUST SEND IT. Hit the send key with a stick, or ask someone else to do it, or whatever. I promise you that emails get easier as you keep going.

There, you’ve contacted your adviser. Good job!!

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