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When POI from safe school emails


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Hey all,

I've been accepted into a media studies PhD. Am yet to take a decision but a professor from a safe school whose work i really like has emailed, asking for questions. While my primary concern is the lack of film component in their syllabus and the figure of stipend, should I mention it in my interactions? or should I simply shoot idle questions about the prof's own research.. Appreciate any suggestions..

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When you say "safe school" do you mean one that has already accepted you (officially)? I'm assuming so, because of the funding mention.

In that case, it's important to ask questions that you have about the program, and unless your POI is *really* egotistical, s/he'll understand that while his/her last four papers are really cool, what's affecting your life right now is...well, basically, lots of stuff that isn't the most recent publication by POI. As long as you ask questions in a positive slant, you should be able to ask nearly anything without your POI getting huffy.


Don't say

A--Why is your program so weak in terms of the required film component?


B--I have a lot of interest in film. How does your department regard students who want to (take more film classes/teach a new film class/insert possible solution to the problem here)?

B puts the POI on your side in solving an issue that s/he is probably aware the department has. It makes you look pro-active, and lets you bring up an issue obliquely. A will just put the POI in the position of needing to defend the program, and this will get you guys nowhere. As far as funding, I suggest you ask who you can contact with concerns about the stipend. If it is indeed your POI, you can then discuss it. If, on the other hand, your POI's hands are tied in the matter, you don't look whiny (and don't force them to tell you to shut up and go talk to someone else)--in fact, you look professional.

That's my take on it, but YMMV. Good luck! Oh, and remember, this is the part of the process where they want to impress you.

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You might also ask whether the school is part of any local consortia that will allow you to take classes at or pull dissertation committee members from other nearby institutions. Whether that's helpful to you depends on how important easy access to the film component is for your research, but it's worth a shot.

For funding, you'll generally want to talk to the Director of Graduate Studies for your department. They're used to those sorts of questions, so just be diplomatic and you'll be fine. You might want to talk to grad students first to get an idea of cost of living and how difficult it is to live on the school stipend. At the very least, this knowledge will put you in a better position to negotiate for a higher stipend: "I'm concerned about the cost of living in City A" sounds a lot better than "Give me more dollars."

On principle, I would tell you to seriously consider this offer and the POI until you're absolutely sure that you've made your final decision. Ask questions, talk to different people, etc. Even if you don't choose this school, it never hurts to have a contact or two elsewhere in your field.

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