Finding An Advisor

You are responsible for finding a faculty advisor for your independent work.

The deadlines for submitting your advisor requests to the department, for the Fall JP, Spring JP, and senior thesis, are listed on the Important Dates web page.

When you declare Psychology as your major at the end of your sophomore year, you will meet with the department undergraduate administrator, who will provide you with orientation information including about finding an advisor. You will also receive e-mail messages early in your Junior year reminding you to search for an advisor.

You should find an advisor as soon as possible, within the first couple weeks of your Junior fall semester. Once you have found someone you would like to work with, and who agrees to work with you, you should tell the Department of Psychology Undergraduate Administrator at psyugrad@princeton.edu who will make the final assignments.

An adviser from another department to oversee the student’s independent work (for example if the student wishes to work in a lab from another department) will be considered only after the student has found a primary advisor within the psychology department and obtained permission from that primary adviser, the departmental representative in psychology, and the potential outside adviser. Then the student must submit written notification to the Undergraduate Administrator indicating the name and department of the outside adviser.


Tips for Finding an Advisor

Many students keep the same advisor for Fall JP, Spring JP, and Senior Thesis, but that is not necessary. You do not need to feel locked into one advisor. Some students seek more diversity and decide to switch advisors between these projects. Some students, as freshman or sophomores, have already begun to work in a faculty member’s lab, and in that case, you may want to ask that faculty member to be your independent work advisor.

If you don’t already have someone specific in mind, see the Directory of Faculty in the Department of Psychology. Click on each faculty member’s name to see a concise summary of their research. You should read all of these paragraphs (it takes about 30 minutes) and make a priority list of matches to your own interests. 

When you have your top 3-5 choices, send an introduction email to your first choice to set up a meeting about advising. If you don’t hear back within about 48 hours (at any given time a number of faculty are traveling or on leave or sabbatical), or if you hear back that the faculty member is unavailable (e.g. going to be away next semester, or already full advising), email the next person on your list. Repeat as needed. 

If you start this process early, you’ll typically pair with one of your top few choices. The later you begin, the more likely it is that faculty members will already have full advising schedules, and by a few weeks into a semester you might need to email your top 7 or so choices before finding an advisor.

Faculty are expecting to receive multiple emails from undergraduates about advising, so don’t feel shy or hesitant about sending introduction emails. All the faculty are passionate about their research areas and your shared interest is very welcome. 

When faculty are considering multiple candidate advisees, it helps to know more about your specific interests and how these interests relate to ongoing research in their lab. You can read the articles linked on the faculty research pages to learn more, or use Google Scholar and filter for articles published in the past 2-3 years by the faculty. In your introduction email, discuss what specific ongoing research interests you. You do not yet need to have any original research ideas to propose (project ideas typically develop as part of JP advising), but if you are certain about a particular topic that you want to work on, include this information in the introduction e-mail. 

Students often match with an advisor based on mutual interest in the same research questions. When the questions being investigated by your advisor make you intellectually excited, the rest of the work is more enjoyable and engaging. Curiosity is a powerful motivator, and the topic of your independent work should be as interesting as possible to you. Or you can match with an advisor based on skills you want to acquire: research methods and quantitative methods used in their labs.

Or you can match with an advisor based on a unique style of advising. Your independent work in Psychology allows a great deal of freedom in pursuing different interests and topics, and the faculty also have flexibility in how they advise. Some faculty provide lots of structure, with a specific schedule of meetings, progress checkpoints, and deadlines. Other faculty encourage you to be more self-motivated and set your own course of progress, providing support when requested. There is not a one-size-fits-all style of advising, and you should reflect on what works for you. When you meet with faculty to discuss advising, ask about their advising style to see if it fits with how you work best.

If you still have trouble finding a faculty advisor, don’t worry: tell the Department of Psychology Undergraduate Administrator at psyugrad@princeton.edu and we will help you through the process.