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hbhowe

Finding/reaching out to potential PhD advisers

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I'm a rising senior doing my undergrad at NYU, and I'm somewhere in the middle of gearing up to apply to PhD programs in US History. I think I have a pretty decent application (3.9 GPA, decent writing sample I'm going to edit, some letters of rec lined up, GRE tbd) but just about everywhere I look recommends that I find and get in touch with potential advisers before I apply. I am extremely skittish and don't really know how or when is appropriate to just out-of-the-blue email somebody asking them to be a huge part of my life for the next five or so years. My questions are 1) how does one go about finding a good prospective adviser besides just looking for giants in their field, and 2) how do you then reach out to that professor in a normal way, without some kind of introduction (or should you only do it if you have an in through an adviser, former prof, etc) and 3) what kinds of factors, in your experience, make a good adviser?

Thank you!!

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1) By reading current research. You don't necessarily want to work with a giant in the field. You want to work with someone who will be invested in you and your research. Start by reading the current scholarship (conference abstracts, articles, recently published books) to get a sense of who is doing what in your specific area of interest. Then, check out where they're working and see if there are other people in the department and at the institution who you could see yourself working with (after all, you need a committee not just an advisor). If the institution has that, at that point you might consider sending an email.

Re: emailing: There are lots of posts on here about emailing prospective advisors so use the search function. Also, keep in mind that it's summer and people aren't on contract so they may or may not answer their emails.

3) Lots of posts on here about that too. Again, use the search function. But also, keep in mind that it's a personal relationship and what is really important to one person may not be at all important to you.

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4 hours ago, hbhowe said:

I'm a rising senior doing my undergrad at NYU, and I'm somewhere in the middle of gearing up to apply to PhD programs in US History. I think I have a pretty decent application (3.9 GPA, decent writing sample I'm going to edit, some letters of rec lined up, GRE tbd) but just about everywhere I look recommends that I find and get in touch with potential advisers before I apply. I am extremely skittish and don't really know how or when is appropriate to just out-of-the-blue email somebody asking them to be a huge part of my life for the next five or so years. My questions are 1) how does one go about finding a good prospective adviser besides just looking for giants in their field, and 2) how do you then reach out to that professor in a normal way, without some kind of introduction (or should you only do it if you have an in through an adviser, former prof, etc) and 3) what kinds of factors, in your experience, make a good adviser?

Thank you!!

There are likely some books that have inspired your interest in whatever area of US history you're interested in. Look at the authors. Who are they? Who were their PhD advisors? From that point, you read literature each of them have written. Then, write an email discussing your interests, that scholar's work, and briefly discuss what you're interested in doing for your project.

Now, in terms of "good prospective advisors," rather paradoxically, one of the signs of a good advisor is his/her students' placement record. Better advisors (at the best programs, at least) tend to place their students pretty well. One of the best signs of a good advisor is supervising multiple dissertations. That's not to say that everyone who supervises multiple dissertations is competent, but beware of faculty who've been in a position for decades and supervised very few students.

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19 hours ago, hbhowe said:

I'm a rising senior doing my undergrad at NYU, and I'm somewhere in the middle of gearing up to apply to PhD programs in US History. I think I have a pretty decent application (3.9 GPA, decent writing sample I'm going to edit, some letters of rec lined up, GRE tbd) but just about everywhere I look recommends that I find and get in touch with potential advisers before I apply. I am extremely skittish and don't really know how or when is appropriate to just out-of-the-blue email somebody asking them to be a huge part of my life for the next five or so years. My questions are 1) how does one go about finding a good prospective adviser besides just looking for giants in their field, and 2) how do you then reach out to that professor in a normal way, without some kind of introduction (or should you only do it if you have an in through an adviser, former prof, etc) and 3) what kinds of factors, in your experience, make a good adviser?

Thank you!!

Hey I'm a current phd student at NYU, if you're around the city this summer let me know if you want to get a coffee.

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1 hour ago, OHSP said:

Hey I'm a current phd student at NYU, if you're around the city this summer let me know if you want to get a coffee.

Definitely get together with OHSP.  There is nothing better than a face-to-face chat with a current graduate student who just went through this process.

You'll also want to ask your own adviser/professors-- they get letters from prospective students all the time.  They should be able to tell you what is a good introductory e-mail and the timing (I generally suggest late September/early October when the semester has been underway for a while).  In the mean time, start reading the more recent works of potential faculty members to get a handle on their most recent research questions.  Trust me, you do not really want to work with someone who has published a book that inspired your research question 20 years ago.  That person has very likely moved onto new questions and areas of interests.

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Thanks for all the advice! I do have a few people in mind who've written some pieces that have been particularly inspiring for me, and I guess the main thing would be to get over my hangup of asking somebody whose work I really admire for help. I'm getting together with my two closest/most helpful professors in the next week, and now I know to add this to the list of things to ask them about. 

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