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Contacting POIs: Questions about the process


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Hi all,


I am very new to this site so I apologize if I am posting this in the wrong place. I looked for similar topics and found some but none that exactly covered what I am curious about.


On Tuesday I begun contacting potential supervisors and have already received a few responses but could really use some guidance about the process.


I received a response back rather quickly from one of my top choices saying:


"Thank you for your interest. I will be taking on a new graduate student in the fall and your interests would fit well with where we are going. I would be happy to chat with you sometime about your interests and our work."


I was very excited to get this email but I am wondering if I should consider a "chat" an informal conversation or treat it more like an interview?


I know that I should do my homework and be able to articulate my research interests as well as what about this particular lab has caught my eye but is there anything else I should prepare for them to ask me?


I would greatly appreciate any advice or guidance!

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You should treat it as an informal conversation, but one that could potentially have bearing upon your admission.  So something in between "informal conversation" and "interview."


A talk with a PI like this will focus primarily on your research skills and interests, as well as where you envision your research fitting in with the lab.  So I think that's probably the outer edge of what they'll ask you, although it depends on the lab.  My psychology lab is really big on personality fit, so our lab interviews also sometimes encompass what you like to do in your free time, other interests, etc.

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You should also prepare for them to ask you "Do you have any questions for us?". In some of these chats, the prof just gave an overview of their program and research going on (in their own lab or their colleagues') and then asked "So, what do you think? Any questions?". So, be prepared for both the "traditional interview" case (where they just ask you a bunch of open-ended questions about yourself) as well as a "conversation about their grad program case" where you might be expected to lead the conversation with your questions! I made the mistake once where I went into a chat like this expecting that they would be leading the conversation, but when they wanted me to talk, I couldn't think of anything and felt really silly! It worked out in the end though, but I have learned to not get into that situation again!

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Thanks so much! I have been working on questions etc. for each of the POI's I will be talking to. I am pretty nervous but also really excited!


Is an informal interview/chat like this a typical response or is this a good sign? 


ps. TakerUk I noticed you did your MSc at Queen's! That is one of the schools I am potentially interested in attending :) I hope you liked it there!

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To be honest, I have mixed feelings about my time at Queen's! In short, while I do like my own department, there were many aspects of the University's overall administration that I did not find compatible with me! If you'd like, we can discuss this further via a private message though. 

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