I am going to be applying to PhD programs in Finance for the 2017-2018 school year and am currently in the process of researching programs. I'm specifically looking to study banking and am choosing programs that have strong faculty and/or research centers in this area. I'm somewhat stumped by the etiquette of whether or not to contact professors who are conducting similar research to my own/potential advisors prior to the application process. One part of me thinks that it could be beneficial to have a conversation about what research is being done on the topic in the department, develop a contact, etc. However, on the other hand, I also feel like this could come off as just mining for information or 'schmoozing' in order to potentially get noticed by a possible advisor. What do you guys think? If anyone has had firsthand experience or a strong opinion on this, I would love to hear it. As someone who loves networking and research-related conversations, it is in my nature to want to reach out; I do understand, however, how this could be viewed considering my status as a future applicant.
Thank you in advance for your advice and opinions.