Jump to content

Correspondence with persons of interest...


Recommended Posts

Hi all!

I am finishing up my applications right now, and I am curious about correspondence with prospective advisors. 

I recently flew out to meet one and tour the department, and we have a great rapport via email and in live conversation.  I have a few others who I have been emailing back and forth a bit, and they are interested in my research.

For successful (and current, even) applicants, how much email time or face time did you get with these professors?   How much did this contribute to the success of your application? 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I didn't email a single professor. I got into 6 of the 9 programs I applied to. It's an ingratiating process that people spend way too much time thinking about.

First, unless the professor is outwardly rude to you, I wouldn't read too much into the tone of your exchanges. Professors can fawn over you now but drop the ball later. Other professors may react a little coolly until they see your application materials. Professors can just be really busy and not reply.

Second, everything is up in the air until application season, when your actual application materials get printed off and passed around, and when the DGS has to put together a cohort. A lot can change at that point. You can have a great conversation with a professor in field X, but if the department's strengths are Y and Z, they might not be taking students in field X if they can't place them in TT jobs. 

Professors do look at the applications of students expecting to work with them, and some of them do expect that you at least touched base with them. Case in point: at my top choice, my POI—and now advisor!—was personal friends with one of my letter-writers, and when he read my application he turned around and asked my letter writer if I was "serious" about the application. He was impressed by my materials, but my radio silence made him wonder. This makes perfect sense given that my advisor is very hands-on and very, very concerned about his graduate students. I didn't know that at the time. I got lucky, because I had a connection through my letter-writer plus a state flagship on my CV (every school I was accepted to was also a state flagship and it is my unsubstantiated belief that like attracts like). At other schools, people obviously didn't care. 

So the value is that: the professor knows who you are, can put a face to an email, etc. If your application gets to their desk, they'll remember who you are, and for some people that's important. But your application itself makes the biggest difference. It has to, has to, has to, stand on its own two feet. A good application—a good writing sample, specifically—counts the most.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I e-mailed all five schools I applied for and had pre-application phone/skype interviews which went very well. I didn't get into any of these two programs, although I was shortlisted for one of them. I think these encounters help you and them a lot. It helps you to get to know the person you are going to work with and take this into account when you have to make a decision. It also helps them to put a face to an application. Although this earlier information cannot be taken into account in your application, it does pulls your file to the "yes" pile. I also think it is very important to talk to graduate students. It helped me more than I initially thought. It was a graduate student who insisted on my applying for the grad school I am currently attend (and where I am very happy!).

Link to post
Share on other sites

It really, really varies but it can never hurt to be in touch.  The key is to learn to go with the flow of things and just apply if you really want to go to that program.  The POIs will reveal who they are when you go to campus for visitation days.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've had contact with my favorite POI and they are interested in my research but had semi-dire (but understandable and realistic) things to say about the prospects of job for European historians... I'm not sure if this is a thinly veiled 'don't apply here' or a 'just know what you are getting yourself into' comment. Anyone have any interesting/confusing interactions with POI and how did you handle it? 

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, bigbangdeux said:

had semi-dire (but understandable and realistic) things to say about the prospects

Yes, and I got the feeling it was more due diligence/eyes wide open type of intent so more of the 'know what you are getting yourself into' variety than the other. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

It is also important to consider that even if your PoI is punching for you, you still may not be accepted to a program if the rest of the ad comm is not interested. I interviewed at a school last year and had a lot of good conversations with my PoI over the course of the weekend and a good interview. But in the end I was not accepted. There are any number of parts of my application that may not have been attractive to other faculty members. So, while it is often necessary to impress your PoI, it is definitely not sufficient.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.