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Should I read into correspondence?


Scalia

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I was emailing a prof. to see if he was taking a grad student next fall. He sent me a very detailed reply asking for my vita etc. I returned his email and then the response back was very detailed info about the program and how it might be a good place for me to research my interests.

I thought this email was above and beyond the call of an email to see if he was simply taking a student. Am I reading too much into this in terms of my chances of admittance? Was it simply being polite and trying to get applicants even though it is a very competitive program?

Edited by Scalia
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Yes and no. I don't think this is any indication of whether or not you will definitely get in. All you can really read into this is that he thinks your qualifications, experience, and interests are a good match for him and the program. But even if he likes what he sees, he hasn't seen your transcripts, GRE scores, LORs, SOP, hasn't interviewed you, and -- most importantly -- hasn't seen all the other applicants. He's seen one facet of your application and it was good.

But as I said, I do think this means that you chose a school well (good fit, etc). All other things being equal, I'd say you could assume you have a decent shot. Unfortunately, all other things usually aren't equal, so at the moment it's still impossible to say.

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Just a comment, you should always attach your vita if you're emailing future professors. :)

Noooo no no no no no. Don't do this. It seems like you're making an assumption and can be taken the wrong way. Don't attach ANYTHING to your email unless requested.

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^ And take it to mean precisely that. I wouldn't try to add any extra significance onto it because he doesn't have enough information to know for sure if you're someone he'd like to admit yet.

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^ Same, by multiple tenured professors and even a DCT. Professors are very busy people. Attaching an unrequested CV carries the implication that you think so highly of yourself that you expect them not only to send you a brief reply about whether they are accepting students (and it is very nice of professors to do this, but let's not kid ourselves -- they don't have to), but to read your entire CV as well and give you some sort of feedback on your fit with the program, and to trust the attachment doesn't contain a virus.

One prof told me that he automatically throws all emails with unsolicited attachments into his email's trash without reading them. So. Take that as you will.

Edited by gellert
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^^

I agree what you said about the unsolicited CV, but vehemently disagree that they don't owe a reply about whether they're accepting graduate students. Ten seconds' effort from the prof can save potential students significant money, time, and false hope. Supervising graduate students is part of their job and they owe a minimal reply. (Professors who have a current website with a statement about accepting students are excepted from this comment.)

Edited by lewin00
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^ I think it's nice of them when they do, but "owe" us one? No. They don't owe us anything at all until we've actually matriculated. I think you're right, though, that it is quite frustrating when they don't reply to so much as just say "Yes I am" or "No not this year." :/ (Voice of experience)

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"If you don't get a reply it might be a sign that this is not the program for you."

I think that's false in almost every case. The reason you don't get a reply usually is because they are very busy. Most professors will even tell you that they are not working on exactly what you're interested in if you had listed your interests. There's not much you can read from a non-reply, even though our intuition is to take it as rejection. Mostly, it is unfortunate because you don't know for sure if they are taking students.

In terms of reading into more detail than usual in a reply, I also wouldn't look into it much. A professor currently taking students told me she gets lots of emails and responds to as many as she cans, but in the end she forgets most, and even if she remembered a few waits to put the notes to the stats. So really it's just how you stack up to the competition.

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These emails are not going to make or break you. You're not going to get in because you emailed a prof before applications are due and you're not going to get rejected because of it either. It's a nice touch, but some profs will just send you a generic reply and others won't even send something back. It has nothing to do with you or them or anything. RELAX.

My mentor is probably the most warm, responsive individual I've ever met and she told me she doesn't reply to these emails. Between being the DCT and director of the clinic, she has a ton of other things going on and doesn't have time.

You can try calling the secretary if you're really worried that the prof isn't taking students. Sometimes they'll know but other times they won't.

Just breathe. Your application is going to get you in, not these emails.

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