Admissions

Should I Contact Potential Advisors? | 3 min read

Summary
• If you apply for STEM program, you should contact your potential advisors. 
• Lately, the graduate programs have required applicants to indicate the name of the advisors they wish to work with.
• The contact email should be concise, fold details of your research area with accomplishments. 


There are many voices on whether you should contact a prospective advisor or not. Some say that you should reach out to professors in advance before applying, and others say that it just is a waste of time.

As you might know, professors are busy. Their email inbox would flood with hundreds of emails such as invitations, inquiries, and etc. If they are prominent in academia, it makes it harder to get contacted by them - They might remove emails without reading, or they read emails but they might not feel like replying to them. That being said, what should you do as a prospective graduate student? Putting yourself in advisors’ shoes might be helpful: Assuming you’re a professor, one day you got an email from a prospective graduate student. He seems promising and shows interest in your current research, asks if you have any Ph.D. vacancies. What would you do?

When it comes to the STEM program, it should be cautious to contact your potential advisor. The STEM graduate schools are more of research institutions than educational ones. Because the research process with doctoral students under the lead and management of the Advisor. That makes the advisor consider prospective students as a member of the research team. It is organic that they would share funding with researchers expected to contribute to the output. That’s why some graduate programs - mostly STEM - indicate that they will accept the application only after getting approval from prospective advisors.

In light of this fact, it is no wonder that STEM fields have tendencies to prioritize applicants’ research experience over other requirements. Hence, having research experience will be beneficial to impress your potential advisors. Because it shows your interest and commitment to research. You will also learn how to collaborate with other researchers and the skills required in your area. In the end, you would get to know what you like and dislike. Research experience helps you find and narrow down your research interests.

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Lately, the graduate programs have required applicants to indicate the name of the advisors they wish to work with. Writing down the name of a professor who doesn’t have a plan to recruit doesn’t increase your chances of getting accepted. You should politely ask them if there are Ph.D. vacancies and check the funding available, information from the website, and etc. It will be one of the concrete grounds for applying to the program. Before sending an email to your potential supervisor, what should you do?

First of all, you should search for potential advisors in your research area. Find the advisor profile on the menu of the university website. The faculty menu, for example, holds overall information about professors, lecturers, and researchers affiliated with the university. You might find the professor’s own website as well as CV, publications, and ongoing research.

Next, you should narrow down the potential advisors and make a contact email. The contact email should be concise, less than three paragraphs. Fold details of your research area and how it would be going well with and what you can bring to the research output. Attaching your well-written CV in the email might be helpful to make yourself known to advisors.

One more thing you should check is if there is a notice on the admission office website that you shouldn’t contact professors. If there’s not, it is better to contact them as aforementioned. So keep your polite manner when contacting advisors and make yourself known to them!


The Steps of Applying to Graduate Schools will be more discussed in the continued articles.

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