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As the title suggests, I'm curious about contacting faculty, as I'm sure others might be as well. 

 

I'll be applying for the first time in the fall and I would just like to get a sense of the norms (if there are any) of contacting faculty at departments of interest. Is it appropriate? Necessary? If so, when? How? Are there examples out there of it really making a difference, real or perceived, for someone? Also, is there someone in the department staff that should be contacted prior to contacting faculty? 

 

I come from a LAC so the inside community of higher is completely foreign to me. Insights? 

 

 

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I am completely on the fence regarding this. I have read opinions on both sides. It's probably the one thing I am unsure about in the process for this upcoming fall.

 

Would love to hear other thoughts on this as well.

Edited by HopefulComparativist
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I would say: It is not inappropriate, but it is also not necessary at all. People who contacted faculty members and got good results tend to say that it helped, and those who contacted them and didn't get good results tend to say it doesn't help. I personally don't think it is something you should worry about. Unless you really do have a question, or have something meaningful to say, the e-mail exchanges (if you got a reply that is) do not amount to anything. 

 

a brief post by Penelope on this topic, a faculty member who writes in this forum.

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I didn't apply to a couple of schools last year because, via email correspondence, I learned that certain professors that I'm interested in are moving/retiring. So in my case, contacting POIs helped me to save some money. But I agree that it won't boost your chance of getting in. 

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Not at all. In fact, I would say you are better off spending your time doing other things to aid/improve your application. From all of the schools I visited (almost all in the top 20), no one I talked to contacted faculty, the only exception is OSU. If you go through the blogs of Professors who provide application advice, all say that contacting faculty is not necessary. 

 

Edit: One faculty member at a school I visited admitted that he hated getting prospective student emails. 

Edited by DKSL
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Thank you all for your responses!! 

 

I didn't apply to a couple of schools last year because, via email correspondence, I learned that certain professors that I'm interested in are moving/retiring. So in my case, contacting POIs helped me to save some money. But I agree that it won't boost your chance of getting in. 

 

I'm curious if anyone else has had an occurrence more like this, where they decided no to go somewhere due to correspondence. I could also envision a situation where you might contact someone and find out that they aren't interested in taking on new advisees due to workload, being low on the pecking order, etc. 

 

I guess I would probably be reaching out to faculty for this reason more so than to try to talk myself up. If others have done this, then how? 

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I'm curious if anyone else has had an occurrence more like this, where they decided no to go somewhere due to correspondence. I could also envision a situation where you might contact someone and find out that they aren't interested in taking on new advisees due to workload, being low on the pecking order, etc. 

 

I guess I would probably be reaching out to faculty for this reason more so than to try to talk myself up. If others have done this, then how? 

Just a thought, if the presence or ability of one professor to take on new advisees will determine whether you will apply to/attend an institution, then it is probably not a school you should be applying to. Interests do change, but you still want to make sure that you like the department overall and that there are 2+ faculty members (who are not married to each other) that you could see yourself working with when applying. 

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I did decide not to apply to a place based on an email exchange with a faculty member.  My email had the usual "here's what I want to study and here's why I think you and I could be a fit," and his response was a very terse "I'm taking on students, but I wouldn't want you.  You should apply to Rochester.  But if you came here, I guess it could work maybe."  So, I didn't apply.

 

My general impression is that the email thing doesn't matter very much.  The professor that I emailed before applying here, who is now my dissertation committee chair, claims that it has nothing to do with anything.  I did get a chance to meet with some faculty at the APSA conference before my application season, and my sense is that face-to-face time was an asset.  That said, APSA is a very busy time, so it's hard to get that face-to-face time squeezed in.

 

In general, this all seems to be at the margins.

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I was advised by a couple of professors at my current institution not to email POIs - they said it really couldn't do me any good.  On the other hand, if one of your letter writers knows a POI personally, that might get you somewhere...

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  • 3 weeks later...

 I did get a chance to meet with some faculty at the APSA conference before my application season, and my sense is that face-to-face time was an asset.  That said, APSA is a very busy time, so it's hard to get that face-to-face time squeezed in.

 

Was this something that you coordinated before the fact or you just bumped into people at the conference and chatted a bit? 

 

I am hoping to attend the APSA conference this fall and I would definitely like to try to use it as a networking opportunity. 

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I didn't contact any profs, and I was accepted at/waitlisted at several top ten schools in my field. At a lot of top 10 schools, the profs get so many emails that there was even a note on the website of one saying NOT to send them emails as it would only be an annoyance. Unless you have a very specific question about their research (ideally related to a project you're working on) or you've heard they might be retiring and want to confirm it, there isn't really a good reason to write them "just to chat." Reading your CV will give them just as good of an idea of your qualifications, and if you have a good SOP, that will do the rest.

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I am in STEM but I am also applying next application season. So far, I have emailed one faculty member and the reason I did was actually a genuine question. I couldnt access one of his publications and wanted to read it. I sent am email with a 1-2 sentance description of my research experience and interests and said I would be applying in the fall and asked if he would be able to send me a copy of the paper. He seemed very interested in my experience, sent me the papers and about a week after the cooresponence, he added me on a professional social media site.

 

I feel like this probably helped me. I have experience doing exactly what the professor does so I think he was interested since I would be able to jump in his lab with fairly little training compared to most. I think I might continue with this method... if I have a question about something in the coming months then I will email but otherwise, I dont think I will email just for the sake of emailing.

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I would do your research before contacting a POI. Make sure you fully understand their work and demonstrate your interest. Contacting a POI can be a tie-breaker, especially for those of us with less work experience. Though, a PhD applicant, who has either obtained a Master's and/or has substantive field work (i.e. think tank, job in D.C., ect.) might not benefit as much from this contact. In that sense, your work and your interests/intentions are bit more clear. 

 

I, for one, felt less experienced and accomplished during the admission process. Though, my SOP was my saving grace. I treated it much like a POI contact. I listed a few professors I was interested in working with along with my interests, rather than lasering-in on one professor. Though, in retrospect, I believe this approach didn't serve me well in the rest of my applications. I was still just some soon-to-be college graduate  with zero publications. I didn't stand out in the crowd. I think the very low risk in contacting a POI is worth the possible impression. Though, the impression should be a good one!

 

A two-paragraph email should do; basically, it's a SOP, except condensed to 1/4 the size - no fillers!

 

1) express a condensed version of your work and interests; 2) express interest of POI's research. You may also send your C/V...they may or may not open it. Be prepared to share with them some of your writing if you mentioned it in your email if the POI inquires. 

 

I am thankful I was accepted into several programs, including my dream program, without messaging a POI. Though, I would urge others to at least consider it, especially if their volume of work will not be enough to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack. 

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I think it depends on the situation. But first, let me address APSA. I went to it last year because I only live two hours away from Chicago, so it was a nice weekend vacation for me. Overall, I did not find it to be helpful. I also did the same with MPSA in Chicago last month. In this case it was a little easier because I had already been admitted to a graduate program, so I introduced myself to some of my future professors and grad students. 

 

As far as contacting professors, I think it has to do with the situation. Last year I was doing a research paper regarding voting behavior in a particular region (which will be my MA and PhD focus as well). There was one professor who had written extensively on this region, and I contacted him to ask about literature regarding a recent election. He emailed me back (this was in October) and gave me some soon-to-be published works that he had done on this particular election.

 

In January, I decided to apply to the university that he teaches at, and was accepted in March. When I was accepted, I contacted him (reminding him who I was), and asking him if he would need a research assistant for the upcoming year. He was more than happy to hire me for the position (pending grant approval) In addition, I have done some addition research on the subject that I initially contacted him about in October, and have had an open line to him regarding information. 

 

I think the key was that I contacted him about a subject that I am passionate about first, with no ulterior motives. Therefore, when I was accepted, communication was quite easy. I think if I would have gone the other direction, and purely contacted him as a prospective student, it might have been different. 

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