During a very brief email exchange, a professor of my university (mathematician) said that he is available to take on a masters student at the moment and gave me an appointment during his office hours.

Roughly in the same spirit as the question How much detail to include in first email to potential PhD supervisor?, I'd like to ask

What kind of "support material" should I bring to this "interview" to make sure the professor collects a sufficient (and sufficiently well-organized) amount of information?

I mean, in addition to the basics, which are

  • a copy of my CV;
  • a copy of my trascript;
  • a concise summary of my mathematical background that is relevant to the (possible) thesis topic with precise references to courses, workshops, conferences, summer schools, and the books or papers I've read.
  • Haven't you already sent your CV, transcript etc. to this prospective advisor? Apr 17, 2016 at 13:38
  • @MassimoOrtolano: No; in my first email, I've only expressed interest in the research area (giving a little bit of my background knowledge) and in working with him; to this, he replied only that he is available to take on students and fixed an appointment for me.
    – user51802
    Apr 17, 2016 at 13:41
  • Speaking as one whose office often deserves disaster-area designation, I think bringing a copy along anyway is eminently wise. :)
    – D.Salo
    Apr 17, 2016 at 13:42

1 Answer 1


It looks like you're set with respect to material things. What I would encourage you to prepare is an agenda -- which, in this case, means a set of immediately practical questions you need answers to, and one or two conversation-starters regarding your would-be advisor's research and that of his existing advisees.

Practical questions: what paperwork is involved in formalizing the arrangement, when should you report to start work, that sort of thing.

Conversation starters: "I read your recent 'Mathematical Models of Baskets' in the Journal of Underwater Basketweaving; are you still working on that?" "What are your current students working on, and is there anything you wish somebody would tackle?" and that sort of thing.

  • 1
    I would also recommend writing this agenda down. Get a list of questions you would want to ask your prospective advisor and the list of points you want to touch in the conversation. You will likely be too anxious or excited during the talk to keep these points in mind.
    – svavil
    Apr 17, 2016 at 18:17
  • An excellent point!
    – D.Salo
    Apr 18, 2016 at 0:35
  • I was hoping we had a question here on "Questions to ask a potential advisor" to refer you to, but I couldn't find it. But one question I suggest you ask is: What is your policy for determining authorship of publications?
    – mhwombat
    Apr 19, 2016 at 8:04

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