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Questions for when POIs contact you

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As happy as I am to have been accepted by a program, there's always something to worry about, ha.


Basically, what sort of questions are appropriate to ask when a professor at a school contacts you? I do have general questions about funding details, cohort size, interdepartmental classes... but is there anything more that I should be asking about at this stage?

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Here's my take, having gone through the "phone conversation/interview/talk with professor" many times last year. Don't think about it so much as what questions to ask, but think about it in terms of you having a professor as a captive audience for anywhere from 5-45 minutes. This is not a small thing, especially if it's a big name professor.

Making my decision, I had very little reserve. Essentially I struck up a conversation with them about the state of the field, graduate school, the job market. Oh yeah, I went there. But I've found that one of the most useful questions I would ask is simply:

"What criteria would you use if you were making a decision about graduate school right now in 2014?"

This provoked some amazing answers which truly helped me see not only where I should attend, but how many professors saw the state of their field/profession.

Disclaimer: This strategy may not work if you are on a waitlist. I'm not sure.

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Like NowMore Serious, I was pretty upfront when I was accepted. I had been accepted to five programs, and the decision was hard. I needed all the info I could get before making a decision. I asked POI's about the future graduate class offerings in my field, which professors would be on sabbatical/leave coming up, and what resources they offer for professionalization. I always asked for placement records, as well. I asked what they saw as the strengths and areas in need of improvement of their program. Also, as I am planning to have children in the near future, I asked about the parental leave policy for each program. I was super stressed the first time I asked this question, but afterward, many other accepted students approached me and thanked me for asking; they were curious as well! 


The most important thing to remember, once you are accepted, the programs want you! If you have a question about the program, ask. This isn't the time to hold back. Self-advocacy is one of the most important skills for graduate school survival, and this is a good time to start practicing! 

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I had my first experience with a POI contacting me yesterday. The context was a little different, however. I wasn't necessarily receiving a notification of an acceptance, but rather the POI wanted to express his enthusiasm and interest in working with me. He was extremely welcoming, and had many kind words to say about my writing sample. We share fairly specific research interests. Though I hadn't been officially accepted yet to the MA program, he mentioned that he'd try to put me at the top of the funding list. However, I felt strange asking certain questions, since the status of my application was in a liminal stage - not quite accepted, nor denied. So, many questions I would've asked seemed to rest on the assumption that I, in fact, was accepted. Also, I allowed my elation over the situation subsume my capacity to think clearly and form proper questions. In retrospect, I would've asked more questions, such as cohort size, general placement records, etc. I fear I sounded terse or inadequate in my responses, but I've rationalized to myself that POIs may be used to these reactions. *shrugs shoulders*

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