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Contacting faculty/mentioning in SOP?


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Hi there,


It seems like a big suggestion people make is that contacting professors whose research you're interested in/mentioning them in your SOP is very important (and if they like you, they can advocate for your admission), but I can't tell if this is only for PhD/other research-based programs, or if it is also appropriate for professional masters programs (MPH/MPP)? my uncertainty comes from not really knowing what to say/what the "ask" is in the email. The suggestion generally seems to be to express interest in their research/discuss how it relates to your work or why you're interested, and to also ask if they will be taking grad students for next year.


I've contacted one professor so far and she responded very nicely, but I thought I'd also check on whether this is considered appropriate/won't annoy professors, or if they don't care to hear from me (because of how the admissions process seems to work very differently)/if it doesn't actually help or make a difference. (I do think regardless, contacting professors will be helpful in learning more about the program/whether it's a good fit, but I also want to figure out whether this is also common practice/won't bother them).




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I actually had no idea whether this was appropriate either. I'm applying to mostly MA programs (with the intention to continue to the PhD, but I must reapply at those times), and I have been reaching out to faculty. 


Obviously I'm still in the application process so I can't say whether that worked out well, but I can tell you that it is really nice to get to know some of the professors I might be working with, and to get a feel for the programs and how they're managed. Some places have warm, engaging, interested and interesting faculty, while others lose emails, forget to respond, or aren't willing/able to be helpful to prospective students only at the MA level. I want to be somewhere where the faculty understand and support that I intend to continue to the PhD afterwards, so these interactions can be a little bit telling. 


All of my reaching out has also led to invitations to visit the campuses and departments, and to meet faculty - which I am really, really excited to be doing.


I intend to mention faculty I hope to work with in my SOP, but again, I'm not sure how standard that is at the Master's level generally, let alone for professional master's program.

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You don't have to contact them ahead of time, but it can't hurt to mention them.  When I applied to MPH programs, I did so with an eye to getting into PhD programs later and I knew I wanted to do research.  So in each of my statements I mentioned 2-3 professors whose work interested me, but I didn't contact any of the professors ahead of time.  I did reach out to a professor at a program I got accepted to after I got accepted, because I was soooooo excited at the prospect of working with her, and she seemed interested in me too.


The admissions process works so differently for MPH programs - admissions is usually handled by administrators and not professors, so your expressed interest directly to professors won't necessarily make a difference unless they fall in love with you.  But mentioning faculty interests among other things in your statement shows that you've done your homework and that you have concrete reasons why this program is a good fit for you, which impresses the admissions office.

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  • 4 weeks later...



I would say, it doesn't hurt, but I am maybe an overly proactive person. I knew the one school I really wanted to get in and emailed several professors and had the admissions office connect me to current students. Out of the professors the maybe 15 professors I had cold-emailed, I was able to connect with two via phone. I definitely mentioned this in my essay and talked about specific points that we spoke about. My conversations weren't as researched focused since my concentration is Health Policy & Mgt, we talked about resources at the school, professor accessibility etc. I did the same thing with two current students I spoke with. I think it definitely helps show that you are really interested in their school and that you have been proactive to reaching out to determine why it's the best school for you. I didn't do this for all schools I applied to, just my first choice and ended up getting in and a 20k scholarship! 

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