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EngiNerd-12

What to do if a professor does not reply?

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As part of the application process, I contacted a few professors I was truly interested in working with (their research aligned perfectly with what I wanted to do). I have not heard back from some of them, so I am not sure if they took my attempt to contact them as a rude gesture (although I apologized ahead for any inconvenience) or lack of interest. Maybe they are just too busy, which is the expected case. But I was wondering if it is smart to just let go and leave it up to them to contact me if they desire.

 

What are your thoughts?

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Eh, they get like a bazillion emails. I'm sure they didn't see anything as rude, they just don't have time to respond. And they'll convey their interest when it comes time to make interview invites and acceptances (you've got at least four more coming). You did a smart thing (which I didn't do) by contacting them - now you're on their radar and when they see your app they'll think, "Oh, I have an email from this person somewhere too." I wouldn't send another message right now - you'd risk them getting annoyed (and you might give them the wrong signal, in that they might interpret a second cold contact as desperate or pushy). Your first messages planted seeds - that's all they needed to do. So for now, you have the right idea in just letting it go.

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Thanks Vincenzo! That's what I was thinking of doing as well, since I would rather not bother them again. I just hope they can tell my true passion for their research!

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I actually emailed a POI that my undergraduate adviser recommended to me back in September and I didn't get a response until late December-he specifically apologized for the late response because it was a "hellish semester" so I wouldn't fret too much!

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I was actually curious about this as well. I had reached out to several POI who were very accessible in the middle of the fall semester, but recently it's been hit or miss. Is it common for some schools to have a policy or "rule of thumb" for POI's to avoid applicant contact until after admissions? A colleague of mine had mentioned this as the graduate school might now want the professor to give any indication of admission or rejection prior to official notification.

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I had similar experiences while contacting POIs. Some replied within a day or so. Others took several weeks and some never replied at all. When I asked my advisors about this, they indicated a number of possible reasons. Some are simply very busy working on research or inundated with teaching/grading/advising. I was able to meet one DGS at a conference who remembered me from an email and apologized for failing to respond (busy semester). Like Vincenzo said earlier, "you're on their radar" - which is good. :)

 

Best of luck to everyone with their applications!!

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One of my POIs specifically told me they couldn't speak with me after the application deadline, so it's definitely possible that that's their policy.

 

I showed this to my mentor and he went, "That's what I say to all the students I don't like." rofl.gif

 

 

 

...just kidding.

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When I applied to programs last year I too wrote emails to professors I thought I might want to work with.  I heard back from some immediately while others replied much, much later.  For instance, my POI where I'm now enrolled wrote to me about a month later asking me to contact her again after the new year (in Jan). My POI at Berkeley wrote to me AFTER they had reviewed my application. At that time she apologized for taking so long to reply, indicated she was busy, and asked if we talk after decisions had been made. She also indicated that I was still in the mix and a strong candidate.  What I really think is going on is that they might want a chance to look at your application before engaging with prospective students.  There are so many of us and so few of them. 

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I showed this to my mentor and he went, "That's what I say to all the students I don't like." rofl.gif

 

 

 

...just kidding.

Fucking hilarious. Thanks so much.

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I usually send at least 2 emails to PIs who don't respond. First one explaining my interests, then a short follow-up email 3-7 days later, along the lines of "I was wondering if you have received my email (attached below for your reference) etc." 

 

It has worked for me every time. After the second email, they either respond right away, or a few days later apologizing for their late reply, that they were away, your email was found in the junk box etc.

 

Just remember that they're busy, but if your email is sincere, I doubt that they would take offence from your interest!

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When I applied to programs last year I too wrote emails to professors I thought I might want to work with.  I heard back from some immediately while others replied much, much later.  For instance, my POI where I'm now enrolled wrote to me about a month later asking me to contact her again after the new year (in Jan). My POI at Berkeley wrote to me AFTER they had reviewed my application. At that time she apologized for taking so long to reply, indicated she was busy, and asked if we talk after decisions had been made. She also indicated that I was still in the mix and a strong candidate.  What I really think is going on is that they might want a chance to look at your application before engaging with prospective students.  There are so many of us and so few of them. 

i contacted a professor that i'm intersted working with, and after reviewing my resume and transcripts (back in september), he asked me to contact him in Jan. so i did earlier this month, but havent heard from him. should I be concerned? or is there anything i can do?

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I just got admitted by a professor who didn't reply to email 2 months ago. So, my point is, chill !!, there r multiple reasons for them not to reply, and this won't harm u anyway  ... 

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I just got admitted by a professor who didn't reply to email 2 months ago. So, my point is, chill !!, there r multiple reasons for them not to reply, and this won't harm u anyway  ... 

 

Congrats on the offer Khaled!

 

I personally am going to refrain from emailing professors again. I feel like you risk bothering them because you don't know the extent of their stress levels during such time of the year. They will certainly contact you if they are really interested and think you are a good fit... so all you can do at this point is be patient and stop refreshing your email every minute (I should probably take my own advice, ha).

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i contacted a professor that i'm intersted working with, and after reviewing my resume and transcripts (back in september), he asked me to contact him in Jan. so i did earlier this month, but havent heard from him. should I be concerned? or is there anything i can do?

nic_t12, I can't say for certain what is going on. But perhaps my story might make you feel better. My advisor was the one that asked me to contact her in January. I did that and NEVER heard back from her. I didn't send a follow-up email because in all honestly I didn't really want to say anything that might make them not admit me. When I was admitted it came with a note that she had agreed to be my advisor. Following my acceptance she reached out to me several times to see what she could do to recruit me. She even got me a really great fellowship.

If you think talking to someone would help at this point, when they have already begun reviewing applications, then I think I would recommend sending one more gentle email. That's totally appropriate. I really do stand by my comment that there are MANY of us and only ONE of them. It's just like when people are hiring for jobs. While they want to get the position filled they must keep up with their daily work and sometimes interviewing/reaching out to candidates is the last thing an employer has time to do.

Good luck!

Edited by slaNYC

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Congrats on the offer Khaled!

 

I personally am going to refrain from emailing professors again. I feel like you risk bothering them because you don't know the extent of their stress levels during such time of the year. They will certainly contact you if they are really interested and think you are a good fit... so all you can do at this point is be patient and stop refreshing your email every minute (I should probably take my own advice, ha).

 

Thank you Amal. 

 

Personally, I tried to contact about 4-5 professors but none of them replied to me, then decided to stop confusing myself and focus on the applications, and assumed that only the best applicants will be admitted in both cases. 

 

what's killing me right now is refreshing my email, seems that my brain has this automatic hourly email checking process :(  

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Thx slaNYC, I think I'll wait for now. It's my top choice school, that's why I'm anxious now. But I agree that professors are very busy, esp. the good ones. Having me on his radar is better than nothing. I also heard that he can only take students that are accepted by the grad school first (the prof not on committee).

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what's killing me right now is refreshing my email, seems that my brain has this automatic hourly email checking process :(

 

Khaled,

 

I  have multiple windows (not even tabs) open: one for my email, one for this site (mainly results search), and another for work-related things. We might end up with a whole month of this! haha

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Thx slaNYC, I think I'll wait for now. It's my top choice school, that's why I'm anxious now. But I agree that professors are very busy, esp. the good ones. Having me on his radar is better than nothing. I also heard that he can only take students that are accepted by the grad school first (the prof not on committee).

 

Being accepted by the grad school only means meeting the minimum requirements. Actually, when an applicant doesn't meet the university minimum requirement, they don't forward the application to the department.

 

Khaled,

 

I  have multiple windows (not even tabs) open: one for my email, one for this site (mainly results search), and another for work-related things. We might end up with a whole month of this! haha

 

Btw, I received the email notification about 3 days after seeing the decision on the online application. It isn't really my preferred choice, but at least I feel safe now. 

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Just a scenario that happened to me:

 

One potential PI that I email did not reply back to my email for ~three months.  I decided to send another email (too interested in the lab to sit and twiddle my thumbs) and finally I received a reply.  It was an apology that my email was pushed so far down in his email that he didn't see it because he was on sabbatical!  You never know... :)

 

Most other professors told me to contact them again after I got accepted... This, I don't know what to make of...

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I showed this to my mentor and he went, "That's what I say to all the students I don't like." rofl.gif

 

 

 

...just kidding.

 

That sounds about right actually. I'll say your mentor is actually cool, because most will just not answer at all. I'm yet to receive even a one-liner from a professor saying "No, don't bother.", at least that would make it clear.

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I have had some professors reply right away, some after a few weeks, and some not at all so far. I'm not going to bother them again for now but I may send follow ups as it gets later in the application season, especially for my top choices (I'm just worried that they didn't even see my email at all, and then I will not be 'on the radar). 

 

But I have another scenario... I have had a couple of professors that replied to me, indicating possible interest depending on funding/competitiveness of other applicants, and asking for more information (my CV, transcripts, or more details on my research), and then never wrote back after I sent them the requested information. I'm not sure to take that. They got what they needed and there is no need to continue email exchanges? They were unimpressed with what I sent and I should take the silence as "thanks but no thanks"?.

 

Another POI that I emailed to try to get more details out of on his current research (webpage is vague and outdated and no recent publications that I can find) wrote back a short and semi-encouraging but also somewhat reserved email, and never responded to my follow up with specific questions about his lab and current work. His email was along the lines of "I'm possibly taking students, but you should know that I do not research x [what I do now]). How am I supposed to write a tailored personal statement about why I want to work with him if I don't know exactly what he does?

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On 9/12/2013 at 8:27 PM, lunarem said:

I have had some professors reply right away, some after a few weeks, and some not at all so far. I'm not going to bother them again for now but I may send follow ups as it gets later in the application season, especially for my top choices (I'm just worried that they didn't even see my email at all, and then I will not be 'on the radar). 

 

But I have another scenario... I have had a couple of professors that replied to me, indicating possible interest depending on funding/competitiveness of other applicants, and asking for more information (my CV, transcripts, or more details on my research), and then never wrote back after I sent them the requested information. I'm not sure to take that. They got what they needed and there is no need to continue email exchanges? They were unimpressed with what I sent and I should take the silence as "thanks but no thanks"?.

 

Another POI that I emailed to try to get more details out of on his current research (webpage is vague and outdated and no recent publications that I can find) wrote back a short and semi-encouraging but also somewhat reserved email, and never responded to my follow up with specific questions about his lab and current work. His email was along the lines of "I'm possibly taking students, but you should know that I do not research x [what I do now]). How am I supposed to write a tailored personal statement about why I want to work with him if I don't know exactly what he does?

Dear Lunarem,

Can you please tell me what did you do and what happened after that?? Since I am exactly in the same situation now as you were 3 years ago. So, would like to hear from you about how you handled the situations.

Thanks in advance.

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I have been getting some "Your profile looks good" "Your background matches my research interest" replies followed by either some general (I perceive so. Correct me if I'm wrong) comments like "I encourage you to apply" or "I'd be happy to work with you if you get accepted" or some very few mails discussing specifics. I don't know what to classify as neutral, stock or positive. Can someone please help me out? Are these comments on profile and background at least slightly positive and specific or just formal and stock? These are from some really reputed programs or unis. So I don't believe they need to promote anything but I have been hearing such opinions. Any truth to it? I am really confused. Any help would be greatly appreciated. 

 

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@EngiNerd-12 I'm curious to know what programs you applied to and what your research interests are, if you don't mind sharing :). I see your program says biomedical physics and that's very similar to what I plan to go into! 

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