Some Potential Challenges

While you may aspire to an ideal relationship with your graduate student or supervisor, realistically it should lie somewhere in between your ideal and an ineffective working relationship.

Remember, there are policies regarding minimum expectations of graduate students and supervisors. It’s realistic to expect that challenges will come up in the course of your working relationship. Here are a few common challenges and some suggested solutions.

It’s Getting Too Personal

The relationship between graduate students and supervisors is complex, as they often spend long hours together working towards a common goal. Given the intensity of this relationship, there is also the potential for the relationship to become too personal. This can be very uncomfortable for one or both of you.

You can usually avoid this situation by following the guidelines in the Getting Started section. However, not everything that can go wrong can be anticipated nor avoided. If you think that the relationship is becoming too personal, tell the other person and talk about the boundaries of a professional working relationship.

If this discussion doesn’t yield the results you’re looking for, you may want to contact the UBC Equity Office. UBC has policies in place to deal with discrimination (unfair differential treatment of individuals and groups based on prejudice and stereotypes) and harassment (behaviour that humiliates, intimidates, excludes, and isolates those it targets).

There's No Time

Your supervisor's too busy to meet as often as you'd like. What do you do? You know the routine: you need to meet with your supervisor before you can take the next step in your research, but he or she can’t meet with you until sometime the following week—or later. Or you meet with your supervisor in his or her office, and are frequently interrupted by important phone calls and knocks at the door. What can you do?

  • Don’t take it personally! Your supervisor is a busy person who has many other responsibilities besides supervising graduate students. It’s not about you.
  • Plan your meeting schedule together, and consider the best time of day, day of the week (maybe weekends are better?) and meeting location (away from the office to reduce interruptions?).
  • Do you have to meet face to face? If you just need a quick response to something, an e-mail might be more convenient and effective for both of you. Similarly, scheduled phone meetings can sometimes replace in-person discussions.

You're having trouble getting important work done? What do you do? You’re not alone. Lots of people have difficulty with time management and procrastination. Go to the Time Management section for more information.

Personal and Life Stress

Personal stress outside of academic life can have a significant impact on your ability to work effectively. Graduate students and supervisors may experience challenges with relationship, marriage, parenting or family issues. Health problems or other unexpected situations can add to the stress of academic work.

UBC Counselling Services provides assistance to all members of the UBC community. Contact them if you think that you or someone you know might benefit from counselling, or just from talking to someone who will listen without evaluating or judging. The Counselling Services web site provides guidance on identifying people at risk.

Funding Problems

Graduate students are responsible for finding their own financial support. There is a variety of options for awards and financial aid at UBC. For more information, see the awards section of this web site.

If you find you are short of funding for a brief period, you may be able to apply for emergency funds through Financial Services.