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What would be the best way to contact faculty of prospective colleges to build my application?


InstinctVegeta
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Hi,

First post here. I am currently having low GPA but strong work experience. I have seen from my colleagues and fellow applicants that having job experience would count to next to nothing while applying for universities. I have given up on ambitious universities and some of the safe universities as well for now. It has been twice that I've applied and have got zero acceptance till now.

Going through different forums and after a lot of google searches, I am seeing the only way to strengthen my application is to start communicating with a professor and try to show them that I'm worthy of selection. But how do I kick-off a conversation is my question? Do I dive into the topic which they are working (and interests me) or is it a necessity to have a paper published on that topic by me?

Thanks

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2 hours ago, InstinctVegeta said:

First post here. I am currently having low GPA but strong work experience. I have seen from my colleagues and fellow applicants that having job experience would count to next to nothing while applying for universities. I have given up on ambitious universities and some of the safe universities as well for now. It has been twice that I've applied and have got zero acceptance till now.

I'm sorry to hear this. How directly relevant was the work experience to the program in question? In my experience, work experience can make the application if it is directly related to the program material because it demonstrates working knowledge, work ethic, etc. However,  I know that is field specific, and practical fields prefer practical work experience.

 

2 hours ago, InstinctVegeta said:

Going through different forums and after a lot of google searches, I am seeing the only way to strengthen my application is to start communicating with a professor and try to show them that I'm worthy of selection.

I would say that your assumption is inaccurate. There are a lot of things you could do to strengthen your application. Since your GPA is low you could target strengthen that part of your application specifically by:

  • Strong GRE scores (around 160 in both categories).
  • Take non-matriculated graduate coursework
  • If you're looking at doctorals, first aim for a masters program that would give you better doctoral statistics
2 hours ago, InstinctVegeta said:

how do I kick-off a conversation is my question? Do I dive into the topic which they are working (and interests me) or is it a necessity to have a paper published on that topic by me?

As for your actual question, you do not need to have a published paper in the topic and can certainly ask them. Other forums have discussed how to talk to POI in really good detail. Here's one:

 

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_kita did a thorough response and I'd go with their advice. When I was contacting professors, I'd mention a bit of my background, my research interests, and how I've read some of their work that I think aligns with my interests. I'd mention I had some questions about the program and was wondering if they'd be willing to talk a bit (in nicer language). Since I'm switching fields, I also contacted the DGS of my intended programs. Again I'd mention my background and research interests, then ask about my concerns with switching fields. I'd always thank them in advance for their time.

It is important to note, though, that you should not tell a POI you've read their work if you haven't and shouldn't say you have questions if you don't. Be respectful and honest in your communication with potential advisors.

Results for Me: I contacted all of the programs I was interested in and, of the 7 schools I'm applying to, I spoke on the phone with professors at 4 schools and had a longish email exchange with the DGS at another. One of the schools does not allow for contacting professors before submitting the application so I used their automated system instead and received quite a bit of information. So, allowing for the one school where I can't contact profs early, 5/6 spending the time to speak with me in depth is pretty good. I also learned a lot more information about the program, surrounding area, and the professors by doing this. However, it should be noted that it is definitely not required for acceptance into a program. 

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I actually think your assumption is incorrect in another way. It doesn't actually strengthen your application in any impactful way to have a light-touch, cold-open communication with a professor. Most professors get dozens of emails between August and October from students who hope to be admitted to their PhD programs. Without an actual relationship with you - some standpoint from which they can judge your work or conclude that your prior GPA doesn't reflect your actual abilities - why would they go to bat for you? This is something you can't easily come to understand simply from some cursory emails.

Are you applying to PhD programs or MA programs? You may need to try for MA programs first, and/or try volunteering in a lab/research group if you re in the sciences.

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