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How I Write and Learn

In this blog series, “Ask a Coach!” our Writing and Learning Center coaches answer our UNC-CH undergrads’ burning questions! Check out what our coaches have to say about everything from taking breaks to utilizing office hours!

What is the best way to prepare for a meeting with my advisor?

Miranda:  Before meetings, I also think “what do I need to get from this meeting to support me” and start there. I typically write out my top questions, think about possible solutions, and map out Plan A and Plan B. This gives me a chance to reflect on what I think is the best course of action but also have suggestions if my advisor has different input. Lastly, I try to additionally email my advisor with what I would like to talk about before the meeting, so they can prepare too. I think keeping an ongoing dialogue with your advisor throughout your time in graduate school is very important, so staying up on meetings can be very helpful in maintaining this. 

Tony: Phenomenal question! For the first few years of my time here I found myself going in with less of a strategy and often not leaving with much of what I needed out of the meeting. Out of reverence to my advisor, I would go in thinking that he was the one who had to set the tone and goals of the meeting and be more hands on. This was never the case. I would walk away with as many questions as I went in and I would constantly feel self conscious that I was not holding up my end of the meeting. Eventually I started including what I wanted to get out of the meeting in the initial correspondence with the advisor to set up the meeting. This put what I needed on the advisor’s radar. Second, I shed my fear of self advocating and being direct with my advisor and this cut through barriers to our communication. Another thing that really helped me was to come with a list of questions I had and things to potentially report to my advisor. This was an easy way to enter feeling like more of an equal participant in the meeting rather than just being under the microscope. 

Jo: This is such a good question! My approach varies a little depending on the type of meeting at hand. I’ll start by articulating to myself why we are having the meeting (Is it to discuss a plan and logistics? Talk through content? Go over a fellowship or other professional opportunities?) and draw up an agenda accordingly. I try to keep my agendas simple: they usually consist of 2-3 bullet points of things I want to address, followed by any questions I have. I also like to leave some time at the end of the meeting for concretely planning next steps and assigning any miscellaneous tasks (setting a date for the next meeting, making a writing deadline, deciding who will send what emails, etc). I also base my agenda on who will be there. I have co-advisors, so sometimes I meet with both advisors and sometimes I am just meeting with one or the other. Regardless, the nature of the questions I ask in the meeting depend a little on who will be there and their differing expertise. I have found that taking 10-15 minutes to do this is more than enough time, so I try to limit my prep to that window, otherwise I overthink and overplan, which doesn’t do much besides make me nervous.


This blog showcases the perspectives of UNC Chapel Hill community members learning and writing online. If you want to talk to a Writing and Learning Center coach about implementing strategies described in the blog, make an appointment with a writing coach, a peer tutor, or an academic coach today. Have an idea for a blog post about how you are learning and writing remotely? Contact us here.

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