Tips for Application Success

If you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in UNBC’s NRES Graduate Program, the next stage in the process is beginning an application. The following is advice from the NRES Graduate Committee to prospective students who would like to move to this step.

It is important that you identify and contact potential supervisors as NRES does not admit students without a faculty member in the Graduate Program who has agreed to supervise your program. Below are some tips on finding an NRES supervisor.

Identify your Degree

Identify the degree that you are interested in, and then look through the list of faculty that accept students in that degree. 

Prepare a Curriculum Vitae

When you begin contacting supervisors, don’t be surprised if they respond by wanting a Curriculum Vitae (an academic resume that highlights your educational and professional background) and copies of unofficial transcripts. 

The former gives supervisors some idea of your background relative to their own, and the latter can give prospective supervisors some ideas for funding strategies via scholarships, etc. Not all prospective supervisors will want to see these, but some will. It is a good idea to have these updated and on hand in case they are requested.

Prepare References

Prospective supervisors might want to check your references before you formally apply to the program. Make sure you have these lined up and they know what you have been working on recently, especially if you have been out of formal education for a while. 

Supervisor's Interests

If the supervisor expresses interest, they will typically outline what projects they are currently working on or what areas they may feel comfortable supervising within, and what they might have funding for or could feasibly pursue for funding.

You may have to be flexible enough in projects to adjust to what the supervisor is likely to be able to support, but you also need to make sure that the project they have available is going to be of true interest to you - once you start, the project will become yours and you need to have the motivation to pursue it. 

Contact Potential Supervisors

Contacting potential supervisors before you apply allows you to discuss your proposed research with a faculty member and determine if there is a faculty member interested in working with you. 

While we do let faculty know that there is an applicant without an identified supervisor, your chances are much higher if you make that contact yourself. Faculty expect prospective students to contact them to discuss possible research, so don’t be intimidated.

Include Specifics in your Email

In your email or telephone call to the faculty member, indicate your background and the particular interest you have in the degree.

It helps if you demonstrate that you understand that person's research and it matches your own. Generic emails to faculty are unlikely to result in a response. 

Contact Former Students

You can, and should, also ask the prospective supervisor if they mind you contacting some of their current or former students to get an idea of what it is like working at UNBC and their personal style as a supervisor.

Treat this stage as a mutual interview - this person will be your primary mentor for the next few years, so invest the time in making sure you are likely to have a good working relationship.


Not all faculty have funding. If you are willing to rely on your savings, other sources of support, part-time jobs or are likely eligible for scholarships (generally GPA driven), you may choose to work with a supervisor who does not have funding, but you need to be comfortable with this decision. Some faculty do get grants after they accept you, but you cannot rely on that happening. 

Teaching Assistantship

NRES students also may be considered for teaching assistantships (TA), but these are unreliable as the number and subject vary year to year. You will submit a TA application with your general application, and again each semester you wish to be considered for one, but NRES cannot guarantee any student a teaching assistantship.