1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Details about meeting with prof from prospective grad school

  1. Oct 24, 2015 #1

    In a few days, I'll be in the same city as my #1 choice for graduate schools, and I thought maybe it would do me well to meet with one of the professors there to try and get an "in" when it comes to admissions. This is definitely one of those times where I wish I were an extrovert (or at least not so paralyzingly socially awkward), since I have a horrible feeling that this meeting will consist of mostly awkward silences. I was wondering if anyone could give me advice.

    I have read through some of his papers and understood them as much as I can (mostly understanding motivations/results). He does theory, so I don't think that I am expected to understand his research at a very deep level as an undergrad, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

    I would be thrilled if someone could answer the following questions:

    • What are some possible discussion points I should bring up?
    • Are there any obvious questions I should ask him?
    • Should I bring a copy of my CV or anything?
    • Is this something I should set up through the department, or e-mail the professor directly?
    • Is there anything else I should do? The obvious answer would be to see how I like the city, but I spent the summer there for an REU so I'm already in love with the university and city (which is why I'm visiting... 3 months later, and they still haven't paid me :headbang:)
    • Is it even worth it? It would maybe be more efficient (but less effective) to just exchange e-mails with the guy. Also, since I'll be applying to grad school in the next few weeks, maybe it's too late to build a solid relationship before apps are due.
    I've read a million threads on here about e-mailing/calling professors, but very few about actually visiting a school/professor that I'm interested in working with. I'm profoundly nervous about this opportunity, as like I said before, I don't exactly ooze social skills. Please help me out!
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 24, 2015 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    I am a retired math professor. I recommend emailing the prof and asking for an appointment. I wouldn't worry about awkwardness, as you are clearly articulate. I would try to think of some questions related to his research or anything in the area that interests you. It is a chance to get some insights from someone doing what you hope to do. He will probably ask you some questions too. You might as well bring your CV just on the basic principle of having stuff available at the times when it could be useful, but he will probably be able to learn all hje needs to about you from a few questions.
  4. Oct 24, 2015 #3
    Oh, I will definitely be asking for an appointment. It's a 16-hour drive there that I'll be making the night before... too much effort to rely on him having some spare time. Thanks for your opinion.
  5. Oct 25, 2015 #4

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    Let me disagree. If the reason you are doing this is to try and get an "in" - an edge up on other applicants - you are wasting the professor's time. Time is a very precious commodity for university faculty, Faculty don't like having theirs wasted.

    It's one thing to want to visit a campus, see if it's a good fit, check out the area, maybe meet with a few people in the department. This is all good. If you're trying to game the system and get an "in", this is likely to backfire.
  6. Oct 25, 2015 #5
    Add to this that it is painfully obvious when somebody is doing this to get an "in".
  7. Oct 25, 2015 #6

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    True that.
  8. Oct 25, 2015 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I would recommend contacting the department itself to see if there is a graduate advisor or associate chair who handles graduate student recruitment. Tell them that you're a senior undergraduate student, you're really interested in their program, and that you are planning a trip to visit the campus. Also tell them you are interested in working with a specific professor or group that's doing work that you're interested in. In some places, when you do this, the department will set you up with a tour and/or set up meetings with current graduate students and they can even co-ordinate a meeting with the professor or people in a specific group. It also gives them the opportunity to recommend an ideal time to visit.

    You can also email the professor directly to set up an appointment if that works, but its good form to let the department know you're visiting.

    Talking points (in no particular order):
    • I've read some of the stuff that you/your group has published, but what are you working on right now?
    • What are your current graduate students working on?
    • What are your expectations from the graduate students you take on?
    • How frequently do you meet with your students?
    • How much independence/project direction should I expect?
    • How does graduate student funding work in the department?
    • Should I apply for external scholarships? Which ones?
    • What advice do you have for success in graduate school?
    • What have your past students moved on to?
    • What can I expect career-wise if I take on this field of study?
    • What resources are available to graduate students?
    Remember the point of an exercise like this is to help you make the best decision you can on what program you should apply to for graduate study.
  9. Oct 25, 2015 #8
    You have all brought up excellent points. I will definitely be contacting the department directly as suggested. I was sort of trying to avoid this since I'm quite familiar with the campus and have taken two tours of the department before, but I know it can't hurt.

    Also, from what I have read on here, I thought it was good practice to contact professors at potential graduate schools so that I could mention on my SoP that I spoke to a professor.

    In case I do speak to a particular professor though, I will definitely be using the list you supplied, Choppy. Thanks so much!
  10. Nov 7, 2015 #9
    I'm sorry to revive a dead thread, but I have an additional question. Generally (from this post and others), it seems that emailing a professor that I'd like to do research with is generally frowned upon (or, at the very least, won't help much). However, some research groups' websites say "we have openings for graduate students, contact so-and-so for details". Is it then beneficial in this case to e-mail the professor?
  11. Dec 3, 2015 #10
    This is probably intended more for students currently enrolled at the institution. You can email them now, but don't expect much. I emailed a few professors when I was applying to grad school (a month or two before applications were due) in cases where my current advisor knew them and had contacted them already to mention that I was interested. The typical reply I got was basically something like "Great, we look forward to reviewing your application." So I don't think it helped, and I didn't get into some of those schools, but did get into one of them. They were top notch places though. I think the main reason for this, and the reason why your visit went so badly, is that they only really care once you are accepted. I would not have tried to visit a place I wasn't accepted to yet, especially because they usually pay for your visit during the designated prospective student weekend. That is when they expect their time to be focused on prospective students.
  12. Dec 4, 2015 #11


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    I don't think it's a bad idea for you to email a prof whose work you are interested in. Worst thing that will happen is that they will ignore your email. But, most profs love talking about their research, and if you do make a good impression, they can always speak with the graduate admissions person and say that they think you should be admitted.

    Edit: I now noticed that this thread is quite old - OP, let us know how your visit went?
  13. Dec 4, 2015 #12
  14. Dec 4, 2015 #13


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: Details about meeting with prof from prospective grad school