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How soon is too soon?


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I am gearing up to apply to PhD programs this coming winter.  I've got a list of faculty whose research interests match mine.  I've started to make a file for each school I'm interested in (with application requirements, etc.) 

 

So my question is, when should I make initial contact with faculty to ask if they might be taking new students next year?  I think right now would not be optimal because they have just been through the tiring process of going through all those applications for this current year.

 

So would toward the end of the semester be too soon as well?  Should I wait until the semester ends (late May) or even later into the summer? 

 

Thanks for any experience or wisdom you have on this!

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Late summer/early fall, most professors have just gotten organized with the students they just brought in around spring, a lot of people didn't even know in the Fall if they'd be taking people.

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I asked this question before I was applying and got the same response. They may not know if they are accepting students until the fall semester starts, so just be patient. Unless you really have a pressing question about their research I suppose.

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The earliest I contacted a POI was in July (although she was in the UK). This actually led to an unofficial skype interview and so that was pretty cool. For another program, the POI was very open to discussing his research and the program, but he told me to wait and contact him again in late September-early October so that he had a chance to settle in with the new semester. I did that and we have maintained a steady flow of communication until this day (although now it's mostly just periodic updates about finding funding). Thus, there can be a benefit of contacting someone earlier than later.
 

Everyone else I waited until about mid-September but even then POIs didn't really seem to have a great grasp on things yet and wanted to talk later. It seems to vary based on the POI.

 
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Sooner rather than later.  In my case, a month or so before apps were due worked fine

Agreed.  I contacted then and almost all of them knew for sure if they were taking students or not.  Some said that they wouldn't know if they will have funding until around the time that decisions are made, even when I contacted about a month before.

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I'm on my first round of applications. I did my initial contacts in mid-August IIRC, and I think only one responded. I did (successful) follow-ups in September, late September I think, mainly because I knew most of them would be at a conference I was presenting at in October and wanted to get on their radars prior to this so I could meet in person.

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