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Contacting Professors before Applying


LadyMactans

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My GPA is not at all what it should be, but I've come up with a plan to sort of redeem myself and emailed a few advisors from schools I'm interested in who said it sounds like a good plan. The idea is to get good scores on the GREs, take some classes at a community college and do well (both for the grade boost and to be sure I'm completely prepared), and get good recommendations (I have 2 already and I'm currently volunteering in a research lab at a very good school hoping to get a recommendation from the professor there).

I've also been told, many times, that I should be narrowing down faculty that I'm interested in working with, reading as many of their publications as possible, and trying to keep in touch with them. I know networking is a big part of success in research (I'm going to school for entomology) and there are certainly professors I'm interested in getting in touch with, but I'm really not sure how to go about doing it.

Do I send them emails? What do I say? How formal/casual should it be? How much should I say about their work? I'm assuming they want to know that I've actually been reading and know what I'm talking about, but how much citing and repeating what I've read is obnoxious? I know this is a very informal part of the process, but it is important. If anyone else has done this and had success, I would love to hear your advice. Thanks.

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This is some pretty detailed advice from a tenured science professor, complete with a template for an "excellent letter".

http://science-professor.blogspot.com/2007/12/writing-to-me.html

Here is some more do/don't advice on the same subject.

http://science-professor.blogspot.com/2009/11/you-choose.html

http://science-professor.blogspot.com/2010/11/getting-to-know-me-and-you.html

Here is advice about how to arrange to meet with a potential advisor at a conference.

http://science-professor.blogspot.com/2008/12/help-full.html

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Thank you! That was very helpful.

BTW there's another thread about contacting potential advisors. The original poster received positive replies so you can ask them how they had arranged their letters:

Last year when I was applying I contacted professors as well. Here is my advise. Don't write letters that are too long, fill it with citations. Of course the letter must be formal but it's still a letter, not an article.

Tell briefly about yourself and in some detail about your academic interests. If you have a research project in mind, describe it. That will help profs to understand if you are a good fit with the program and if they would want to supervise your work. If you describe a project you want to work on, ask for their opinion. Or ask them if you they be interested in being your advisor. You can also attach your CV.

When I was contacting profs last year, I did not attach a CV but I already had a project in mind and I described it. I think it helped me a lot to find a program with the best fit.

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