I am currently in the process of changing my advisor and hence looking for new prospective advisors at my university. I got interviewed by one and she asked If I was in touch with any other advisors. I told her what the truth was but what exactly is the reason for asking this question? What does the potential advisor want to know?

  • They may assessing how likely you are to be their student to help solidify their research plans.
    – Cliff AB
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 19:57

3 Answers 3


One reason an advisor might ask this question is to know how time-sensitive the decision process is. If you're not considering other advisors at the same time, there is no competition and the potential advisor can spend some more time making her decision.

Another reason might be to gauge your interest in her research activities based on the other people to whom you're talking. Are you looking only at her field or are you looking more widely? Since you're coming from someone else at the same university, she'd likely be using such choices as a means of determining your level of interest in what she's doing. In other words, she probably wants to know if you're just looking for any advisor, and she happens to be someone you're talking to, or looking at her as a serious option.


This is a question I often ask prospective students when they ask me about being their adviser, whether it's for initial advising or to try to change. There are a few reasons:

  • It may give me a better understanding of precisely what parts of my work interest them. If a student is attracted to both my work and that of a software engineering professor, they likely have a different set of interests than if their other possible interests are privacy or machine learning.
  • If I know who else they're talking with, I can better help them find the best fit. That best fit may well be one of the other faculty members they're talking with.
  • If they aren't talking with anyone else, I can suggest they do so, and perhaps make a few specific suggestions.

It's possible she may want to discuss your academic future with other faculty members. Bouncing ideas of other potential advisors to come up with the best fit for you wouldn't be outside of the realm of possibilities.

If the situation arises again, I wouldn't hesitate to inquire "Why do you ask?"

  • 1
    Actually, this question is frequently being asked by many potential PI, however, I do think that every prospective PI has a hidden intention depending on the person. In my personal opinion, this question shouldn't be asked by the PI, like all, we know any position will be finalized to one out X applicants, so it logical that the applicant should apply for other position. For any case, his application should be considered carefully. Finally, if I turn down the offer, it would go to another suitable applicant.
    – user39171
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 16:45
  • 3
    @einpoklum being direct is essential to effective communication. If you want to know why a person asked you a question, then asking that person will get you an answer that anonymous question/answer sites can only speculate at. After all, the point of advisors is to teach you, and any advisor worthwhile would be happy to share their reasoning with you.
    – Underminer
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 1:56

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