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Should I email my potential advisors before applying to graduate schools?

  1. Sep 5, 2010 #1
    I'll be applying to grad schools over the next few months, and I've talked to a few professors at my university who have told me that it would be a good idea to find professors whose research specializes in what I'm interested in and email them, telling them a little about myself and that I'm applying to their university and may possibly be interested in working with them. The professors that told me this said that this will usually help my admission, because the professor you've contacted will usually argue for you when they're discussing which of the applicants to admit, because it'll: 1) show that you're genuinely interested, and 2) excite the professor because they'll have a new potential slave (haha). What do you guys think of this idea? Is it really necessary/helpful?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 5, 2010 #2
    Absolutely, I am in the same boat and I did this and it turns out that it's a good thing to do. However, you have to be careful not to do this too many times. Choose professors that you are genuinely interested in their research and try to express your REAL interest. professors are very skeptical from spamming or that students may be sending hundreds of emails without real interest. so you have to be careful, personalize each email, and show genuine interest. I would also recommend that you offer writing a research proposal/report or anything like that if required to show that you are really interested. If one of them accepted your offer then do what he requires. this will absolutely boost your chances of admission. That's how I see it anyway
  4. Sep 5, 2010 #3


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    Hossam is right; it will be easy to seem insincere. But also remember that not all professors are looking for new grad students, so you're asking them for a favor, not granting them the privilege of working with you. And it can also be a bad idea to 'cold-email' someone you've never met just in case you end up not getting along. I went to my first grad program specifically to work with a certain prof one of my other advisers had highly recommended to me; within 2 months we were actively avoiding each other and I transferred out after a few years just to get away. Blindly transferred to a school I knew nothing about, spent 6 months taking classes and getting to know people, and then picked an awesome adviser I'm very happy working with.
  5. Sep 6, 2010 #4
    It isn't necessary but yes, it's helpful - for both your application and your understanding. It's hard for you to know without actually speaking to someone in the department what their work is like and what direction it could take for students. You wouldn't email them only to help your application - you would find out more about the university, department and whether or not it fits with what you're looking for. You could ask for a short meeting to discuss research in the area and prospects for the department/project - or tell them that, as a prospective student, you've browsed work that they've done and would be happy if they might recommend a paper or two that's in the direction of future work.
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