When You Arrive

Your First Term in Graduate School

Strategies for making your first year as a graduate student at UBC a success include the following:


Become oriented to the UBC campus

The wise graduate student takes time to locate the offices, buildings, departments and people who will be most vital to their future success. Take time to walk around campus.

Familiarize yourself with the following resources for graduate students:

You can use the campus map website Wayfinding at UBC to assist you, if you want to find the appropriate offices.

Attend graduate program and campus-wide orientation sessions

  • Campus-wide Graduate Student Orientation

View the Graduate Studies Orientation website for complete details including information specific to International Graduate Student Orientation

  • Departmental Graduate Program Student Orientation

Most graduate programs hold their own student orientation activities. If your program is holding an orientation session, attend all related activities.

Familiarize yourself with graduate policies and procedures in your graduate program and at UBC

You may first hear about UBC graduate student policies and procedures when you attend your program and campus-wide orientation sessions. However, there are still many details that you will need to understand as you begin your formal graduate study.

Program Graduate Policies and Requirements: For specific program policies, procedures, regulations and deadlines, be sure to carefully review your program's latest graduate student handbook. You should also consult with your department's graduate secretary to be sure that you have the most up-to-date resources or guide to graduate student policies.

Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Policies and Procedures: The G+PS web site contains a wealth of valuable information and guidelines to help new graduate students. All new students should visit the following web sites:

Meet early with your graduate supervisor

One of the most important keys to success in graduate school is establishing a positive working relationship with your research supervisor. Your supervisor can lend advice and provide wisdom regarding many aspects of your graduate program. You should plan to collaborate closely with your supervisor in order to learn about essential rules and procedures of becoming a researcher and scholar in your discipline.

Still Waiting to Choose a Supervisor? In some programs, graduate students have the opportunity to select a research supervisor after they have arrived. If you are in such a program, be sure to familiarize yourself with the procedures and deadlines for selecting an appropriate research supervisor when you first come to campus and during your program's orientation for new graduate students.

Working Effectively with your Supervisor. It is important to set up a time to talk with your supervisor during the first week that you arrive on campus. There are a number of important topics that you will need to discuss and the Graduate Student / Supervisor Expectations document can help.

Here are some of the issues that need to be reviewed during your first meeting with your supervisor:

Frequency of Meetings with your Supervisor

How often will you meet with your supervisor during the term, and where will your meetings be held?

Procedures for Initiating Meetings with your Supervisor

Who should normally initiate the contact between you and your supervisor, and what is the preferred method of contact for doing so?

Supervisor's Expectations

What are your supervisor's work expectations of you? This can include any of the following topics:

  • Work location. Where are you are expected to conduct your work? Are you expected to be on campus or do you also have an option to work at other locations such as your home?
  • Timeline. What is the typical timeline for moving through the graduate program? When are proposals and thesis/dissertation documents expected to be completed?
  • Work hours or schedule. How many hours are students expected to devote to research each week and over the year?
  • Procedures for holidays and leaves. What is the procedure in your department for notification about illness or requests for leave? What are your supervisor's expectations around holidays?
  • Communication with your supervisor. Does your supervisor want to know your schedule during the semester? How can your supervisor best get in touch with you during the week and when you are away?

Your Program Funding Plans and Scholarship Deadlines

How will your graduate work be funded over the course of your program? This information is important to learn at the beginning of your program of graduate study at UBC because you need to find out immediately what are the department's deadlines and procedures for applying for:

  • Scholarships
  • Research Assistantships
  • Teaching Assistantships

Your Expectations and Professional Career Goals

During your first meeting with your supervisor, it is a good idea for you to discuss your own career aspirations and your expectations regarding career outcomes. Here are some topics to consider:

  • The kind of career you hope to pursue.
  • Your supervisor's advice and information about career opportunities for graduates from your program.
  • Where you can locate information about job outcomes of recent graduates from your program.

The Publication, Presentation and Authorship Practices and Protocols in Your Program

  • What is the standard practice in your program for graduate students who wish to publish or present their research in scholarly journals or academic conferences?
  • What are the general practices regarding primary and secondary authorship with your supervisor?
  • Are there any issues associated with intellectual property in your program that you should be aware of?

The Plan to form your Supervisory Committee as soon as Possible

Discuss forming your supervisory committee with your primary research supervisor during your first year of study. The committee can play an important role in recommending courses and helping you to plan your research.

Additional resources for effectively working with your graduate supervisor and committee:

UBC Handbook of Graduate Supervision
Handbook of Graduate Supervision: The Working Relationship
Handbook of Graduate Supervision: The Supervisory Committee

The Supervisor Relationship Checklist

Have you discussed the following:

  • Meeting times and arrangements
  • Supervisor's expectations as for work location, hours, communication, holidays, and thesis/dissertation work
  • Funding opportunities and deadlines
  • Your career goals and objectives
  • Publication, presentation, and authorship practices

Apply for scholarships in your program

Discuss Scholarship Issues with Your Graduate Advisor. During your first interaction with your graduate advisor or research supervisor, you should raise questions about the procedures and deadlines for scholarship and graduate fellowship applications in your program. Be sure to find out about all awards for which graduate students in your program may be eligible. Ask your advisor for advice about developing an effective scholarship application.

Thoroughly Review the UBC Grad Studies Awards and Financial Aid Web Site. The web site gives details about the range of financial assistance available for graduate students including academic merit-based and need-based funds.

Read the Hot Tips for Scholarships Guide for more information.