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Made mistake in email to potential advisor


Moe Tucker

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So I made an error in my email to a potential advisor when expressing my interest in her lab. I bymistake wrote the wrong lab name. This was 7 days back, and she hasn't replied. Will this affect my chances of admission? Is there anyway I can rectify this?

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It's not good news mostly because this makes your email seem like one of those obvious mass-emails that students sometimes send to professors where it's clear that they didn't do any research and don't know anything about the lab or potential fit. Most PIs won't respond to such emails because the student didn't put any thought into them. If you had discovered the mistake right after sending the email, I would recommend immediately following up, fixing the mistake, and apologizing. In this case, you might wait another week or so to put some distance between this last email and a new one, then email again (not forwarding the old email!). If you choose to do this, you might want to make sure that the email is personalized and that there are no similar mistakes. You may or may not get a reply, but you have nothing to lose by trying. No one can tell you if this will affect your chances of admission; of course this kind of thing doesn't help, but it's hard to tell if it can hurt or how much. Send the second email, and then apply and don't worry about it any further. You can't do much to change the mistake, but that's all it is, and usually it's not any one single thing that affects the outcome. Grad school admissions are a holistic process, so you just need to try your best and hope it works out. There are so many considerations that do into these decisions beyond if someone wrote the wrong lab name in an email.

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7 hours ago, fuzzylogician said:

It's not good news mostly because this makes your email seem like one of those obvious mass-emails that students sometimes send to professors where it's clear that they didn't do any research and don't know anything about the lab or potential fit. Most PIs won't respond to such emails because the student didn't put any thought into them. If you had discovered the mistake right after sending the email, I would recommend immediately following up, fixing the mistake, and apologizing. In this case, you might wait another week or so to put some distance between this last email and a new one, then email again (not forwarding the old email!). If you choose to do this, you might want to make sure that the email is personalized and that there are no similar mistakes. You may or may not get a reply, but you have nothing to lose by trying. No one can tell you if this will affect your chances of admission; of course this kind of thing doesn't help, but it's hard to tell if it can hurt or how much. Send the second email, and then apply and don't worry about it any further. You can't do much to change the mistake, but that's all it is, and usually it's not any one single thing that affects the outcome. Grad school admissions are a holistic process, so you just need to try your best and hope it works out. There are so many considerations that do into these decisions beyond if someone wrote the wrong lab name in an email.

Thanks a lot for your reply!

Just a follow up: my application deadline is December 1st. So if I wait a week to email her, it will literally be around 5 days before the deadline. Will professors frown at such a late email?

Also, instead can I email her after submitting the application? I'll write an extremely personalized email telling her I am interested and tell her I've already submitted an application, so look out for it or something?

I feel so terrible for making that mistake! I dont know how it slipped my notice.

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Ah, the plot thickens... Given this new detail, I'd say email tomorrow if you have anything to say that is relevant pre-submission; otherwise, the post-submission plan also makes sense. I am from a field where these emails aren't the norm and I didn't send any myself, so you may want to also consult with someone with more specific knowledge of your field. 

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I'm not in your field either, but I agree with the advice that the best thing to do is 1) pretend you never sent that incorrect email and 2) send a new email after the application due date and say something to the effect of "I submitted an application and I'm interested in your work and I hope I will have a chance to study at XYZ department" etc. As fuzzy said, if there is something you need to know prior to submitting then write the email sooner (but maybe you can get that information from another person anyways).

I don't think you need to mention your old email with the mistake and no need to unnecessarily draw attention to it by apologizing about it at this point. Just demonstrate that you actually know what you are talking about by writing a personalized and well written email this time around :)

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