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when to start contacting professors for spring/ summer admissions


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Hi everyone,

I intend to apply for PhD programs in the States for the Spring/ Summer term 2011. Usually the rule goes that if you should start contacting prospective advisors 10 - 12 months prior to the starting term. For Spring/ Summer term it is a bit tricky because the deadline to apply is often in September/ October, which means the contact should be done between January and April of the same year.

Say since I would like to start in January 2011, the deadline to apply is October 2010 then by that rule, I should start writing some emails about now. However this is the time when profs are busy selecting students to start in the Fall 2010.

I am a bit lost and confused here, so would appreciate any input/ experience at all about when to start contacting. Also is there anyone here who knows anything about spring/ summer admissions for engineering @ Columbia and Carnegie Mellon?

Any input would be very much appreciated.

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You should probably check with whoever is in charge of admissions for the department first. I looked into it some and found that it's very rare for anyone to admit PhD students in the spring except in unusual circumstances. The funding is done on an annual (or 9-month) basis, so there is generally no funding available if you don't start in fall. Most schools require you to go through some sort of TA training before you can start being a TA, and they typically only offer that once a year, just before fall semester starts. And finally, grad courses typically aren't offered as frequently as most undergrad classes were, so there is usually a pretty strict sequence for the first year where you have to take the fall classes as pre-requisites for the spring classes, so they really want everyone to start in the fall and be on the same track.

That's what I found out for astronomy/physics programs, and I'm pretty sure the same thing applies for all of the science and engineering PhD programs. If you're going for humanities or social sciences, it might be different, I don't know. I was disappointed too because I'm anxious to get back to school and so I'd love to start next spring, but it sounds like it just makes more sense to wait for fall. One good thing is that for a lot of schools, if they admit you for fall, it's pretty common to find a professor that you can work with doing research the summer before you start classes. So that's what I'm going to shoot for, and it means the wait won't be quite as long.

Edited by krilvyn
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