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Lukewarm Responses from POIs?


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Hello everyone! Hope applications/school/work are going well so far! I've started reaching out to POIs for clinical psych programs this week. I've mostly followed advice gleaned from this forum and talked about my background and experience, my research interests, and my desire to learn more about their work. I've sent out 4 emails so far. One said I sounded like a good fit but wasn't accepting students, and the other hasn't replied. The other two basically said they were "looking forward to receiving my application". Nothing negative, but not very positive either, just a very generic answer. I've read about a lot of people getting super positive responses and informal interviews by reaching out, so I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong in my emails. For the people who have gotten really positive responses, how did you phrase your emails? Or do you think it depends more on the advisor's personality than a perfectly written email? I would like to figure this out before I send out any other emails, so if anyone has any advice for me that would be great! I can also PM the emails that I've sent if it would help.

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I honestly wouldn't look too much into it! These professors probably get 50+ emails all saying about the same thing. I only had one "informal interview" with a PI and it's because we had a mutual connection. I think that may be most of the cases for people who are getting more than a "lukewarm" answer. But this is just from personal experience, so I wouldn't say this is 100 percent true. Personally, I wouldn't get disheartened by this!

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3 hours ago, ColoradoGirl94 said:

I honestly wouldn't look too much into it! These professors probably get 50+ emails all saying about the same thing. I only had one "informal interview" with a PI and it's because we had a mutual connection. I think that may be most of the cases for people who are getting more than a "lukewarm" answer. But this is just from personal experience, so I wouldn't say this is 100 percent true. Personally, I wouldn't get disheartened by this!

Ok thank you! That makes me feel a bit better. 

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I wouldn't go looking for informal interviews either, I don't think it counts for much and looks to be a waste of time imo. Maybe explicitly asking for a zoom chat might prove beneficial, as I don't think they'll willingly offer that up unless you ask.

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7 hours ago, spring2000 said:

 I've mostly followed advice gleaned from this forum and talked about my background and experience, my research interests, and my desire to learn more about their work...I would like to figure this out before I send out any other emails, so if anyone has any advice for me that would be great! I can also PM the emails that I've sent if it would help.

I recommend that you find ways to express empathy in a manner that is both appropriate and concise. While you're seeking to embark upon a professional career with energy and enthusiasm, the professors reading your email may be getting crush by the cascading traumatic impacts of COVID-19 on their lives, their livelihood, and their life styles.

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10 hours ago, ColoradoGirl94 said:

I honestly wouldn't look too much into it! These professors probably get 50+ emails all saying about the same thing. I only had one "informal interview" with a PI and it's because we had a mutual connection. I think that may be most of the cases for people who are getting more than a "lukewarm" answer. But this is just from personal experience, so I wouldn't say this is 100 percent true. Personally, I wouldn't get disheartened by this!

I am going to echo this response. My personal experience was that I got a mix of responses when I inquired before making an application. I never got an informal interview, but it seems that was because most POIs wanted to remain objective and give everyone the same shot.

However, I had some enthusiastic back and forth with a couple of them and that never materialized into an interview. I got no responses from some, and then got an interview and had a great conversation with them. This also happened from some who gave "lukewarm" looking forward to your application responses. It's my own experience, but seems to be similar to what I've been reading on the forum.

Unless you have a personal connection to introduce you or something, I would focus my energy into applying. 

Best of luck!

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13 hours ago, ColoradoGirl94 said:

I honestly wouldn't look too much into it! These professors probably get 50+ emails all saying about the same thing. I only had one "informal interview" with a PI and it's because we had a mutual connection. I think that may be most of the cases for people who are getting more than a "lukewarm" answer. But this is just from personal experience, so I wouldn't say this is 100 percent true. Personally, I wouldn't get disheartened by this!

@spring2000I second this! I had two really good informal interviews with people and it's only because I had a connection. I can't say for sure how things would have played out if I didn't have that connection, but it's my first year having an informal interview so early, and it's only obvious that having a connection can help. Honestly it can hard to gauge anything through email, so I would continue focusing on your applications and remember that someone's response to your inquiry says nothing about you! 

Edited by Schy
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I second all the previous responses. My pre-interview emails/interactions had no bearing on my application success. I think a lot of faculty will be more reserved or brief at this point because they’re busy and also want to wait to see everyone’s apps before getting invested. 

Edited by PsycUndergrad
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I personaly feel like that apart from offering an unofficial talk, the word number of their reply also matters. For example, if you received a 200word reply with the "looking forward to your application" at the end and I thought it was pretty encouraging! 

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Hi! Just weighing in as a current student, I have to disagree and I do think personal connection counts. For both times I got to thr interview phase during my application it was cause I met with the POI first and got really positive responses from that initial meeting. I did however have a situation where I had a really positive pre-interview (she said she thought I was an excellent candidate and really really hoped I would apply to work with her), but never made it to the interview stage (bc she had no input at this stage). But definitely i think making connections helps. The reason I think people wanted to meet with me was because my cv was very strong and I had worked with a lot of people my POIs knew (clin psych is such a small world), so I would say if you can play up your strengths/any relevant or similar experiences you may have with the POI that will make you stand out! 

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On 10/1/2020 at 7:13 PM, Yuchen said:

I personaly feel like that apart from offering an unofficial talk, the word number of their reply also matters. For example, if you received a 200word reply with the "looking forward to your application" at the end and I thought it was pretty encouraging! 

I would definitely not infer anything from word number. It says more something about how much time they have. This PI is likely sending similar length emails to everyone (some people even have a template), it may depend on the time of the day they reply, the day of the week, how busy they are, etc.


Also I got accepted in my top 1 PhD program where my PI never responded to my email, whreeas I didn't get even an interview with people who wrote really lengthy replies.

Don't put too much weight on these  responses.

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On 10/4/2020 at 12:10 AM, Chebben said:

Hi! Just weighing in as a current student, I have to disagree and I do think personal connection counts. For both times I got to thr interview phase during my application it was cause I met with the POI first and got really positive responses from that initial meeting. I did however have a situation where I had a really positive pre-interview (she said she thought I was an excellent candidate and really really hoped I would apply to work with her), but never made it to the interview stage (bc she had no input at this stage). But definitely i think making connections helps. The reason I think people wanted to meet with me was because my cv was very strong and I had worked with a lot of people my POIs knew (clin psych is such a small world), so I would say if you can play up your strengths/any relevant or similar experiences you may have with the POI that will make you stand out! 

I don't think I have any of those strengths to play up lol! But I do agree that having connections can be helpful. Based on what everyone else is saying it's probably not going to keep someone out of the running 

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11 hours ago, spring2000 said:

I don't think I have any of those strengths to play up lol! But I do agree that having connections can be helpful. Based on what everyone else is saying it's probably not going to keep someone out of the running 

I agree yeah, it's definitely *helpful* but not *necessary*. I still say it's always worth emailing though in case you spark their interest (cause ya never know), but yeah def don't worry if people seem unenthusiastic. 

I had a meeting with one of the clinical faculty members in my program recently and she said that her and her colleagues are actually feeling pretty overwhelmed this year cause the application pool seems to have increased dramatically. She said she receives 10-20 emails a day and some of her colleagues who are more well known receive 20+ emails a day!! She was pretty candid about the fact that with this increase in contact, she hasn't been able to keep up to date with all her emails so please do keep that in mind as well! Especially this year, it could have nothing to do with the quality of your app and all to do with the fact that supervisors are just suuuuper busy.

Good luck!

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On 10/9/2020 at 11:02 PM, EmpatheticMastermind said:

☠️

I realize that this is probably a year when more people apply due to current circumstances, but please try to not get too anxious about it. It helps to put things into perspective: sometimes people see a down employment market and tend to flock to grad schools, but it does not mean that all new candidates are ready, have enough experience or have narrowed down their interests sufficiently to be a real competition to folks who are on their second or third cycle, after a lot of experience in the field. I'm not trying to downplay how competitive it is, but I know many people who are not a good match for grad school and just apply as a "hail Mary" because they don't know what else to do right now or parents are pushing them in that direction.

The competition has slightly increased, but don't let that get to you too much - the application process can weight heavily on our mental health and the current situation just maximizes a lot of worries. 

I would think of it this way - your own achievements, interests and fit are the ones that will get you into the program. Sometimes POIs turn down all applicants in a year because they couldn't find someone compatible, so no sense in comparing yourself to someone else.

Also, having an increased pool of candidates also means that your future colleagues will be capable, competitive peers and that you can challenge each other and grow together. 

Take care!

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49 minutes ago, EileanDonan said:

Has anyone else had POI's misspell your own name? I'm sure it was a typo, but at the same time, given how much we slave over these responses, the least we could get is something that was proofread in return...

Mine still does. But I hae a somewhat unusual spelling lmao

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11 hours ago, PokePsych said:

Mine still does. But I hae a somewhat unusual spelling lmao

Haha, yes! This! 

I'm an international student so I have a slightly different spelling of a popular English name. I get the English version from my supervisors often, or even weird alternates from admins/ people who don't know me too well. I'm actually fine with it, I realize that they have other things on their mind. As long as my name is ok on official documents, I'm ok.

@EileanDonan I realize that having your name misspelled is not the best, but try not to take it as an offense. If they become your supervisor, they will probably know your name by then :)

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