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Emailing profs


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Dear friends,

In last year's application, i didn't send any emails to profs. A very kind prof emailed me one day and told me that i'd have had a better chance if I did some matching beforehand.

Hmm...but I have several questions and I sincerely hope that you can help:

1) What content should I write in the email? I guess I should briefly introduce myself and tell the profs. my research interest. But should I attach a resume and an SOP too? Or should i ask about my possibility of getting in?

2) Should I send to one prof. in each school? Or should I send to a few that I am interested?

3) If he/she doesn't reply, should I still apply?



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There are threads in the Sociology and Applications forums that talk about what to say in a letter, so I won't rehash that here.

The consensus seems to be that it's fine to email multiple profs in the same program. Just don't be shady about it, you know? Like, don't tell each one of them that they're your first/only choice to work with, because chances are they'll compare notes at some point when discussing your app.

Definitely don't let lack of response keep you from applying. Some people just won't get back to you, but that's not necessarily a reflection on your chances of getting into the program.

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1) What content should I write in the email? I guess I should briefly introduce myself and tell the profs. my research interest. But should I attach a resume and an SOP too? Or should i ask about my possibility of getting in?

2) Should I send to one prof. in each school? Or should I send to a few that I am interested?

3) If he/she doesn't reply, should I still apply?

1) Do briefly introduce yourself and your interests and ask if they are taking on grad students next year. Maybe attach your CV/resume. But do NOT ask them about your possibility of getting in or anything else that basically requests a premature evaluation! Write to them with the attitude that you are good enough to get in, but you first want to make sure this particular professor would be receptive to working with you. Ask what they're working on now, as some profs current research might be very different from the research of theirs that you've read and would have liked to work on!

2) Send it to whoever you are interested in. A few is fine

3) YES still apply

Full disclosure: I didn't email profs either and did get into grad schools, so if you do all your research independently, you still might be OK (i.e. pepper your SoP with why you're a good match to particular professors' research interests). But I wish I had emailed profs, especially when I found out after applying that some of the faculty I wanted to work with were leaving, or that they were doing something totally different than they used to.

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In the application process, I would not put myself out there and say I "want" to work with you (unless a good friend of the prof says to do this).

Chances are, you dont know the prof. And for all you know, the prof could be a complete asshole, and since you want to work with them, your fate is in their hands.

I would send a general email, introduce myself what I'm interested in studying, and go from there. If the person replies, that's good. If they dont, then I wouldnt worry about it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am getting ready to write my emails and I found a few very helpful links.

Different discipline, but it looks like helpful advice:


And here are a couple from happy schools blog:



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I am applying this round as well and I have had great success contacting professors. I sent them an email with a brief statement about my background, a few lines about what I am currently doing, and a few lines about my research interests. I introduced the email by saying that I am just trying to assess my fit at __ school and am interested to learn more about the program.

The only school where no one got back to me after a few emails was UCSC. I received emails (sometimes almost immediately) from everyone else I emailed (I emailed one to two people at every school to which I am applying) and spoke with all of them either in person or on the phone. The professors I contacted at Stanford all got back to me within minutes of my email! It was quite reassuring but I have found that the professors who were not as quick to respond were just as willing to speak with me and equally as helpful.

I have found these meetings and phone conversations to be incredibly useful in my personal statements. I have been able to say a lot about my fit with each program in the essay as a result of speaking with faculty. It's definitely a good idea to speak with them.

I sent between one and two emails, depending on whether there was more than one person with whom I wished to speak. Oftentimes I the faculty member whom I contacted would suggest others with whom I should speak and sometimes even set up meetings for me.

Definitely still apply if you think you're a good fit, don't worry if they don't respond. I would not recommend asking them of your possibility of getting in.

good luck!

Edited by sa854
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Hi everyone-

I was wondering if people wouldn't mind posting some examples of the emails that they have sent to professors. Thanks!

Professor X,

I am an applicant to the University X Sociology Ph.D. program for Fall 2010. I have received mixed advice about whether to contact faculty members at schools one is interested in, and I respect that you are busy, so please feel free to disregard this email as you deem appropriate.

A brief background of myself - I have my BA in sociology and economics from XXXXX College and have some mathematical training. I have worked for two years at XXXX in XXXX as a research assistant and statistical programmer. I have mainly worked on large-scale education evaluations, and as a result have become interested in both education policy issues and statistical methods used in the field of education.

The existence of the XXX program and the XXXX are the two main reasons I am interested in applying to University X, and I know you are involved in both of these entities.

I have two questions for you:

(1) Do you think my perception is correct that the University X Sociology program is a good fit for someone who is interested in doing sociological research about inequality in access and achievement in education?

(2) Are you actively advising students in the Sociology program?

I would appreciate any insight you can give me; please let me know if you need more information from me before you respond.

Thank you in advance for your time.

All the best,



EDIT: I have sent some variant of the above 4 professors whose work I was sincerely interested in, and got positive response from 3 out of 4 of them. I have no idea whether this is the appropriate format to do this sort of thing, but I think it has been working so far.

Edited by EdPolicy
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