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miami421

When and how to contact POIs

17 posts in this topic

Hi y'all,

I was wondering when a good time to contact (by e-mail) each of my POIs? I've already e-mailed some graduate students asking specifics about the program and their opinions on certain areas within the program, but that's about it. It's summer now, so I imagine my POIs are busy/relaxing. Nevertheless, I don't want to wait too long. 

My next question is: what is a good way to approach the e-mail? I'm a first-generation college student, so this particular step is incredibly vague. I don't want to send an e-mail saying, "Hi, my name is _____ and I admire your work. Don't keep reading this e-mail as this is obviously just a way to suck up to you." 

Some ideas I have come up with are:

Introducing who am I and basically why the particular program interests me. 

Asking if they are accepting students.

 

...and that's about it.

So how does one navigate this process? 

Thank you in advance. 

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There have been posts relating to this question.  Look back in Fall 201(X) Applicants threads.  You'll find a wealth of information, if not daunting, shared by applicants and old-timers (like myself).  This is the kind of question that comes up every year.

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Posted (edited)

6 hours ago, TMP said:

There have been posts relating to this question.  Look back in Fall 201(X) Applicants threads.  You'll find a wealth of information, if not daunting, shared by applicants and old-timers (like myself).  This is the kind of question that comes up every year.

I looked through the old posts (albeit briefly), but it seemed like most were about people who had already been in contact and not about initiating the contact. 

I will go back in and check, then. Thanks. 

Edited by miami421
grammar

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It can be really hard to sort through those posts because there are SO many responses in a thread. I think it's nice to have a thread about this all together for future applicants.

Anyways, when I reached out to POIs, I erred on the side of professionalism. That means says "dear" at the start, as awkward as that feels.

Here's a sort of template to go by:

"Dear So and So,

I am a (enter here: graduate of, undergrad/graduate student at, etc.) studying (enter major/specialization) and I am considering applying to doctoral programs this fall. My interest(s) is(are) XYZ, and after much research, I am interested in working with you if you are able to accept new graduate students in the fall of 2018.

My research... (talk about your research interests, past research, research style, etc.)

I have read (enter name of book/article/publication by POI) and it sparked my interest in blah blah blah. I found your argument about X especially intriguing. I am interested in a similar topic, and believe my research could benefit from your guidance.

*enter anything else you want to say or any questions you have. it is good to ask at least one question, like 'how many graduate students do you usually advise at time?' or 'how many dissertations have you overseen?' or anything specific about his or her advising style*

Thank you for for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours (or all the best, or something similar),

(your full name)"

 

Hope that helps! I wrote like that to all POIs and got a response from every single one, from state schools to Harvard.

 

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On 7/6/2017 at 11:16 PM, nhhistorynut said:

I wrote like that to all POIs and got a response from every single one, from state schools to Harvard.

Bump to @nhhistorynut's post, and a response to the quoted bit above: professors who take the time to write back – even a short, generic response – are the kind of people you want to work with. Don't buy the argument that professors get too much email and therefore hate getting emails from lowly prospective students. Everyone gets too much email. Professors who care about pedagogy write you back – maybe not right away, but they write you back. Those are the people you want to learn from. 

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so, after rereading this, I just want to add that you should always proofread your emails, which I clearly did not do above :rolleyes:

there's nothing worse than clicking send and then noticing a glaring typo!

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Posted (edited)

On 7/6/2017 at 3:37 PM, miami421 said:

Hi y'all,

I was wondering when a good time to contact (by e-mail) each of my POIs? I've already e-mailed some graduate students asking specifics about the program and their opinions on certain areas within the program, but that's about it. It's summer now, so I imagine my POIs are busy/relaxing. Nevertheless, I don't want to wait too long. 

My next question is: what is a good way to approach the e-mail? I'm a first-generation college student, so this particular step is incredibly vague. I don't want to send an e-mail saying, "Hi, my name is _____ and I admire your work. Don't keep reading this e-mail as this is obviously just a way to suck up to you." 

Some ideas I have come up with are:

Introducing who am I and basically why the particular program interests me. 

Asking if they are accepting students.

 

...and that's about it.

So how does one navigate this process? 

Thank you in advance. 

You are asking very good questions, questions that I didn't ask at the time. I literally checked my inbox to see what I wrote to my present advisor. I started with the "I'm interested in applying to the History program at X. I came across your work in this way. I have a degree in Y from P University. In my thesis, I examined blah blah blah. I would like to expand this into bleh bleh bleh." My advisor and me don't coincide in the geography so I said this to her at the time: Although our geographies do not overlap, you could probably advise me on my application". Yeah, what a silly wording. 

Two short paragraphs. That's it. Also, I contacted her on June 22. So about this time :) 

PS: I checked my response. My only question to her amazingly explanatory response was: How important are GRE scores? I feel so stupid now! DON'T DO THIS!!!! Ask smart questions. Also: I responded with a "Thank you!!!!!" Keep the etiquette: "Dear Dr./Prof.... Thank you for your response... blah blah blah"

Edited by AP

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I didn't contact anyone until the Fall semester started, late September or early October. As you said, most faculty are either off doing research somewhere, attempting to write the book/article they don't have time to work on during the year, or trying to get a few weeks of family time in. By late July/August they're working on syllabi for the following year and are beginning classes by September. This is not to say that you wouldn't get responses if you wrote now, as you probably still will, but it might be a bit easier to slip through the cracks in the summer I think. So I took the advice of my MA advisors and waited until the early semester rush was over in the Fall and things were a bit less hectic (for them). 

As @laleph said, people who write back are the ones you want to work with. I eliminated two schools that I thought would be really good fits because I never heard back from the faculty I wrote to there (and have since learned through the grape vine that I made the correct choice in doing that). On the flip side, I paid more attention to one or two schools that I got slightly more enthusiastic responses from than I was expecting, and ended up attending one of them.

As for content, be professional and be able to succinctly summarize your previous work, why you're interested in working with them, and how you see your work potentially developing. Remember, nothing is written in stone so don't worry about committing yourself to a topic at this point. Ask whether they are accepting students for the term you're applying for-- I had to take one of my top choice schools off my list because the person I wanted to work with told me she'd be on sabbatical and couldn't take any students that year. It was a complete bummer, but knowing ahead of time saved me a lot of time and money that would've been uselessly spent on that application.

I hope some of that helps. Best of luck!

 

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On 7/7/2017 at 9:05 PM, nhhistorynut said:

@AP you're cracking me up! :lol:

:D:D:D 

Well, I think it is worth pointing out that those of us who did get into fairly good programs, we didn't have perfect e-mails, SOPs, or WS. We had stuff that worked, and we were lucky. I had more Skype interviews with other POIs and neglected my now advisor (I don't know why). 

Bottomline, give your best, be professional (that never hurts), and understand you don't control the process. :D 

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Bump for @nhhistorynut's advice. That is almost word-for-word what i wrote to all my POIs. I contacted them around this time in the summer -- most got back to me right away, but the last got back to me by late August (i.e. the start of the semester when they finally got back to the office).

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Would you also contact any CMOI (Committee Member of Interest) after receiving positive feedbacks from the POIs? 

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4 hours ago, VAZ said:

Would you also contact any CMOI (Committee Member of Interest) after receiving positive feedbacks from the POIs? 

Do you mean members of the AdComm that are not your POIs? 

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@AP thank you for pointing it out. I actually mean your potential comp examiners and/or dissertation committee member/reader, those "who you also want to study with."

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4 hours ago, VAZ said:

@AP thank you for pointing it out. I actually mean your potential comp examiners and/or dissertation committee member/reader, those "who you also want to study with."

I definitely did this.  But only after I contacted the POI and got a response.  Usually, I'll respond after a few exchanges that I'm also interested in X and Y and ask the POI if they might be interested in my work/I should contact them, or the POI will make suggestion that I contact X and Y.  It really depends on the departmental culture.  For example, the professors at Brown CC-ed each other in their communications with me (crazzzyyyyy).  In other cases, I'll report back to the POI that I had a great conversation with X.  But I hesitated to write other professors without having a "referral" from the POI or my own professors.  I might have had a school where the POI didn't care about other faculty members and that gave me a pause.

I think my logic at the time was, if not going to be my primary adviser, then I want be sure that this person is willing to be part of my network anyway.  It is true that contacting multiple professors in one department helps the POI's case for your admission but the POI makes the first decision whether or not to accept you, followed by the graduate studies admissions committee.

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12 hours ago, VAZ said:

@AP thank you for pointing it out. I actually mean your potential comp examiners and/or dissertation committee member/reader, those "who you also want to study with."

Ohhhh I see!! 

I'm an international student so I had no idea about comps and committees until I was already in. Professors that I contacted strongly encouraged me to contact the other faculty from the same field because of the reasons you and @TMP mention (namely, that you will most probably work with them as well).

It was so hard for me to contact one person that I felt stupid contacting all of them! I don't think I did though.

But yes, they might be in your AdComm (read your admission package) and so it can be an intelligent move to contact them after you've talked to your POI. You want people to remember you: "Oh yeah, that's the one who studies Venetian festivals". Good move! :) 

Edited by AP

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I definitely did contact the professors in each department who were second- or third- to fourth- or fifth-most relevant to my interests. (I only got to five at one school where I had three potential dissertation advisors—my rule of thumb was to contact about two potential committee members whom I was not considering as potential POIs.) I never thought twice about it. I'm not sure in retrospect, however, actually, how widely I would recommend others to do this. It was important for me because my interests are rare enough that when I asked the commitee-member-type professor some version of, "could we work together? do you think you could help advise with a student with my interests?", the answer was never a given. A few professors said no, they didn't think the courses they offered (for example) would help me further my research project. Useful information—I think I still applied to every department with such a professor, but I knew not to mention those professors in my SOP. A few said yes, actually, they were working on a new project that harmonized particularly well with my research. I had been waffling about even applying to one department, for example, but the graciousness of a couple of these more tangential but still important professors made me send in the application. That program ended up being a close second choice for me! Perhaps if your other committee member choices are more obvious, these kinds of emails would be superfluous. On the other hand, I liked articulating why I thought I could work with somebody: it was interesting seeing whether they agreed, didn't, or suggested a different shared area of interest. I like @TMP's suggestion of bringing it up first with your POI, since that should provide an assurance you're not going to over-reach somehow, although I never thought of that method back when I applied.

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