How Do I Choose a Major Advisor?

The process of choosing a major advisor varies considerably across departments. Some departments assign students to advisors alphabetically or based on their interests. Others ask their students to choose an advisor from a specific list. Still others ask students to choose an advisor from among the entire faculty in the department. In the case where you have a choice, there are several strategies to consider.
  • Choose someone you already know: an instructor in a class you have taken, your PMA, your RF.
  • Choose someone you don’t know but would like to: someone who does research in an area you are also interested in, someone who has had life experiences you share or would like to share (e.g. started a company, did non‐profit work, served in government)
It is always a good idea to check with the department Student Services Officer to ask for specific advice about choosing an advisor in their department. You should also realize that, while the major advisor relationship is an important one, one of the strengths of your Stanford education is the diversity of mentoring relationships that you have the chance to develop. You can always add or change advisors down the road so the choice of a major advisor is not final or limiting.
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