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Another Sub-Forum?


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This forum is chock-full of wonderful topics, and lots of great advice-threads.

Under Applications, however, I feel like one important step is missing.

And it should be the first step.


Well, the FIRST step is deciding to investigate programs, to see if you want to apply.  However, shortly after researching various institutions and programs to find your fit, the first step in actually applying should be:


Faculty Contact Letters


or something with a similar title.  I think the first step in the application process should be locating faculty to whom you are posing the question "will you be my mom/dad?"  Once you find a potential advisor (or a slate of them), you should really make the effort to contact them before ever filling out an application or tailoring your SOP to that specific university. 


If others feel this way, maybe this can be something we see set up here, and it can include the same flavor of advice as the rest of the forum, i.e. what to say/what not to say, how do I ask about x, learn from my mistakes...etc...


What do you think?

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I think this might be better handled in the domain-specific forums, since whether or not these contact letters are required/expected varies greatly by discipline. In my field (statistics/biostatistics), they are completely unnecessary and a waste of time.

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This is very discipline specific, as well as area/institution specific. 


I didn't initiate contact with any faculty until my visits to most schools in December the year I applied, and it was considered typical. 


It's more usual for interested faculty to contact the applicants in my field than the other way around. 

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That's interesting.  I had thought if there were a difference, it may be between, say, more scientific disciplines and more social disciplines (humanities?).  I have now undergrads in both, anthropology and geology, and in both disciplines faculty contact is not mandated, but encouraged.  Not necessary, necessarily, but couldn't hurt. 

That said, two of my contact attempts to anthropology programs met with somewhat cordial (read: cold) responses, albeit polite.  One geology program has yet to contact me back, but I have had some great responses in both, and feel it could make a difference.  One professor from each discipline has expressed the desire to meet with me before my application is even submitted, and I have been invited to participate in a pilot survey that will evolve into the project I would be working on should I be accepted. I suppose its a gamble, perhaps, some places would rather not be pre-contacted, and others look on pre-contact as another way to rank applicants.


Live and learn :D

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