Graduate School

FAQs on Contacting Potential Advisors | 3 min read

Followings are frequently asked questions on contacting professors.
Q: Should I contact potential advisors before applying to the graduate program?
A: It depends on your decision but I would say, you should contact them. It is organic to look up whose work is related to your research interests before applying to the graduate program. You should be aware that obtaining a Ph.D. requires at least 6 to 8 years of commitment. You should also inquire about the advisor’s funding status since most Ph.D. students get funding from their advisor. (Refer to the previous article for the reason) In reverse, put yourself in an advisor’s shoes - advisors also want to work with students who can contribute to research output. Having that said, contacting advisors is a start to put your name on the preliminary selection of advisors. They might give you a chance to join their research group only after you’re getting accepted. In short, there’s no such reason for contacting advisors. You just need to reach out to them.

Q: How should I contact potential advisors?

A: To reiterate the reason why you’re going to contact them: It is to make yourself known to potential advisors. You should write a concise e-mail with a well-written introduction of yourself. Anything that can make you stand out among other applicants could be okay; Did you go undergrad at top-tier universities? Write it down. Having a great GPA or Research experience? It’s worthwhile to have a portion of the introduction. It will increase the odds of replying to you with an impressive introduction.

Q. I don’t have any response back from advisors. How long should I wait for a response?

A: What you should know is that professors are busy but they’re checking the email regularly. The thing is when their inbox floods with emails, your email might not be their priority to respond. If your email has been overlooked, it’s because professors just don’t have time and read it and then they forget to respond later. You could send a gentle reminder to the professor and if they don’t answer back again, contact another professor could be a strategy.

Q. Can I send contact emails to professors in the same department?

A: Of course you can. It is organic to contact several professors if they are doing research on similar topics in the field. You should contact them to figure out your research fit. But try to contact them in separate emails and each content should be customized.

Q: How should I answer when professors in the same department ask why I contacted them?

A: I think it would be rare but just answer what it is: You tried to contact them because you’re interested in their research topic and you wanted to know that how your research interests overlap with theirs. As a prospective graduate student, it is natural to contact potential professors.

Q: Should I attach my CV to the contact email?

A: As you know, professors are busy. A concise email is likely to increase more chances to get answers. As you might know, attached file has security issues. So you should write what you would know about in the content of the email. Attaching your CV or a portfolio could be a backup.

To be continued...

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