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Programs Should I email potential advisors when applying to masters program

  1. Oct 9, 2016 #1
    Hi everyone,

    I'm planning to apply to a few terminal masters programs this fall, with the goal of doing a thesis option and applying to PhD programs after the masters. (I have various reasons for wanting to go this route instead of applying straight to a PhD). I know it's good to seek out and email potential PhD advisors before applying, but does this also apply to masters programs?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 10, 2016 #2

    Choppy

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    It applies in Canada. I don't see how it would hurt in the US. If you're going to be selecting a supervisor for a thesis-based master's degree it makes sense to do some research on both the supervisor and the project.
     
  4. Oct 10, 2016 #3

    ZapperZ

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    You never stated the purpose of such e-mail.

    And put yourself into the shoes of these professors. Why would they put any effort into responding to you? You haven't applied to their programs. You are not assured of being accepted. There is also no guarantee that even accepted, you would attend that school or will end up in their research group. You haven't passed their qualifying exams.... etc. etc. etc.

    It is a standard practice where I'm at that, if contacted by someone we do not know to ask us about our activities, we give them a standard response by pointing to what we already have on our website. That's it. We will not, and we have been advised not to, give out any more information beyond that.

    So what are you expecting to get considering your current situation?

    Zz.
     
  5. Oct 10, 2016 #4
    Wouldn't that also apply to people applying to PhD programs? It's my understanding (and correct me if I'm wrong) that it's common practice to introduce yourself to people who may potentially be your advisors at schools to which you're applying and ask them a few specific questions about their research, despite the fact that there is no guarantee you will enter their research group. This is apparently beneficial in the admissions process. Again, just things I have heard from friends who have applied.

    I was just wondering if the research done to complete a master's degree is of too short duration for this exchange to be expected or useful (in admissions), or if people who apply to masters' programs with a thesis option tend to do this also. I apologize for the vagueness in my op.
     
  6. Oct 10, 2016 #5

    ZapperZ

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    I certainly didn't do anything like that, and my guess is that this is not a common practice. I can see contacting a faculty member AFTER one is accepted and one already has a clear idea on what area one wants to specialize in. But again, at least here in the US, you are usually not someone a faculty member want to put effort in till you pass your qualifier.

    Zz.
     
  7. Oct 10, 2016 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    Your friend are idiots.

    It's very easy to spot the emails of the form "I am trying to get a leg up on the other candidates by feigning interest in your research, but I am too lazy to actually look up anything on about it on my own. So I thought I'd waste your time and ask you something I could have easily found out myself!" The effect of these is not strong and positive.
     
  8. Oct 10, 2016 #7
    I always do a lot of research on colleagues before I send a cold email. I visit their research web site, read several of their papers, and do quite a bit of due diligence about whether and what we have in common before I send the email.

    I also get to the point quickly about what overlap or common interests we may have, including a CV or some links to my papers or web site so they can quickly assess if pursuing a relationship (a warm answer to my email) or not (a polite but cool answer to my email) aligns with what they want. I also lay out what potential relationship or collaboration might look like.

    A potential student should look at himself as a potential collaborator and take the same approach. Figure out what the faculty member wants, what kinds of interests he has, and what he is most likely looking for in collaborators. What do you bring to the party that he might be looking for? That's what you emphasize in your email.

    So, do you have 10-12 hours doing a good background and composing a good, individualized email for each faculty member you hope to contact? If so, your approach can be very productive and result in faculty members who pull your application from the pile and give it special attention. If not, you are just filling inboxes with SPAM.

    I have never turned down a research collaboration opportunity from colleagues (including students) who did their homework and approached me already knowing that their needs, abilities, and interests were a good match for my own. I don't spend much time with SPAM.
     
  9. Oct 11, 2016 #8

    StatGuy2000

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    Vanadium 50, wouldn't it be fair to say that the student who is about to apply to a graduate program would have done their homework and checked the website of their potential supervisor (either their own website or websites with their research papers available -- not all faculty members maintain an active web presence) prior to sending out that e-mail?
     
  10. Oct 11, 2016 #9

    Vanadium 50

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    "Should" is the key word. Sadly, there are quite a few mails that are pretty clearly not in that category.
     
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