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I just started grad school this year. I met with my advisor over three weeks ago, on the first week of school. We talked about the school, she told me a bit about the department and showed me around the office. She also talked to me a bit about putting together an advisory committee, but that's it. It lasted an hour, but we didn't really talk about my research project. She told me to get settled into grad school over the next couple weeks. She did recommend I watch some videos to help me get more familiar on the nature of the project, which I did.

I'm worried I haven't heard from her in so long. She's someone who likes to set up weekly meetings for her students, too. And now I'm worried to email her because she may have been expecting an email like two weeks ago. What do I do? Should I email her? What should I say? I was thinking of mentioning to her that I watched the videos she recommended. I think I'm already making a bad impression in grad school.

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    "I think I'm already making a bad impression in grad school". FYI, just have a look at Impostor syndrome and try to change the way you think. – tod Oct 3 '18 at 3:51
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    How does your graduate school work? Do you have other obligations beside your research project, such as coursework? – Wrzlprmft Oct 3 '18 at 6:22
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    Just send her email. Better yet, just go to her office and talk to her face to face. – JeffE Oct 3 '18 at 12:02
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    " And now I'm worried to email her because she may have been expecting an email like two weeks ago". This about how this will feel in 3 more weeks of waiting anxiously. – Behacad Oct 3 '18 at 13:03
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    I had to constantly bother my advisor for help or else I would have been ignored for 4 years until he showed up and asked "where's your dissertation" – iammax Oct 4 '18 at 5:08
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It is very important to have frequent communication with your advisor, even if you think you have nothing new to say. And it is NEVER too late to email her. Just tell her the truth, just like you described above. Advisors want students who are honest and can make adjustments as needed. I am well aware of how awkward it can feel to meet with your advisor when you haven't accomplished everything you think you should have or when you think you're running behind schedule, but that's what weekly meetings with advisors are especially good for - evaluating what the next steps should be and how to change things around to get things done.

28

What do I do? Should I email her?

Absolutely. If you don't contact your advisor now, the 2 week delay will quickly grow into a 3 week delay, then a month of no communication. Then your advisor may decide to reach out to the department to check up on you. Contacting your advisor ASAP is the only reasonable action in your situation.

If you are very nervious about writing an email, here are a few things that may help (as someone who used to suffer from severe social anxiety I was in your shoes a few times, too).

  • Put aside all your other assignments and entertainment until you finish and send the email.
  • Don't try to guess what your advisor thinks of you or how she will respond, just find your strength in realization that what you're doing now is the right and responsible thing.
  • Show that you are willing to learn from this communication mishap and make sure it does not repeat again.
  • If you are still too anxious, try mindful breathing, it may help to focus and reduce the anxiety.
22

She told you to get settled into grad school; presumably, you've done that, at least to a reasonable extent. She told you to watch certain videos, and you did that. And presumably your schedule of classes and other recurring obligations is reasonably fixed by now. So write an email telling her that and asking to set up a regular meeting time.

12

Every advisor is a bit different. Some may want you to take the initiative. Of course, she is also busy. If she has regular office hours you can go visit again. It is especially valuable if you want some specific guidance on your project or have some initial ideas that you want feedback on.

You can also ask, directly, how often you should meet and how to arrange it. If the meetings she has are group meetings, you probably want to be included in that also. Ask. Face time is best.

8

In addition to what everyone else has said, another reason it's very important to contact your advisor, is that you are responsible for your education and for the pace at which you learn and proceed. This was one of the hardest aspects for me to get used to when pursuing my graduate degree. I kept waiting for my advisor to make corrections, give regular feedback, and guide both my project and my education while at school. I learned quickly, and repeatedly, that this expectation was both unreal and my invention.

If you need something, you have to ask for it, clearly, and sometimes repeatedly. Your education is not your advisor's responsibility. It is yours and will succeed, or not, by your actions more than any other factor.

3

You were instructed to do a thing. You have done that thing. Now you go forth and inform your supervisor that you have done that thing and ask what you should do next. Simply initiate that communication.

You're not at high school any more: you're an adult and are expected to be proactive with social interactions. Sometimes that means starting a conversation, rather than waiting for the other person to go out of their way to do it for you!

tl;dr you're overthinking it just reach out

1

From Buffy's answer: "Every advisor is a bit different. Some may want you to take the initiative..."

Now for the bit from personal experience: you want to make sure that you set up a relationship with your supervisor that works well for you. If you don't get in touch often early on, your supervisor might assume that you just like to work more independently and leave you to it, figuring that you'll report back when you need help/have published a paper etc. It is difficult to change that dynamic later on. It's definitely worth setting up regular meetings from the start.

protected by Alexandros Oct 4 '18 at 18:54

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