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seniority of prospective adviser – does it matter for admissions?


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In one of the programs I am applying to, the person I'd like to work with is very junior (09 phd). The intellectual fit is perfect, and I think by the time I'm finished he'll be established enough, but I'm worried that my admission chances will be lower because the more senior profs will pick people who want to work with them. Should I emphasize in my SOP that I can, and want to work with the senior people as well? That wouldn't be lying, but it would require me to change my project description quite a bit.

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It depends on the program. Some depts will only allow professors to serve as primary advisors if they have tenure. (Especially if the dept has a history of denying tenure, or of profs choosing to leave before tenure review). So you would want to make sure that's not the case.

Otherwise, I think, it really comes down to the proverbial luck o' the draw. Is it that professor's turn this year to get a grad student? Is the dept even accepting candidates from your subfield this year? Did your prospective advisor make a deal with another professor that this year, she'll get 2 students and next year he'll get 2? Factors totally out of our control.

All that said, there is nothing wrong with mentioning junior profs in your SOP, although if you're looking at a primary advisor situation, it's probably a good idea to e-mail and ask. I'm not sure you'd get a reply at this point, though (end of semester crunch and all).

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I second Sparky- while it may be a little late, the best thing would be to email the professor to see if they are able to advise grad students. If so, definitely highlight who you want to work with, while also noting, if possible, how your interests align with other faculty as well (if applicable).

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