This beautiful sunday morning, I am going to attempt to demystify a very important issue candidates face when applying to MS/PhD programs in the USA! Here is WHY and HOW to email Professors (faculty members) before applying to a particular School for funding.
There are a lot of reasons a prospective candidate may have to reachout to professors in the proposed school prior to submitting an application. However, for the sake of this thread, I will be focusing on how to actually improve your chances at securing funding for your studies.
If you need a detailed expose on funding, I have treated that earlier. See link : How To Fund MSc Or PhD Degree Programs In The USA
This thread is going to be focused on the emails to faculty members. Stay with me.
I saw a tweet by @ifyadaji yesterday and it just reminded me of the amount of wrong emails being sent out.
Why you need to even contact Professors before you apply to a particular school
I guess we have a good glimpse of the problem now. Let us talk about why you need to even contact Professors before you apply to a particular school. The reasons are 3.
1. You are emailing the Professor to clarify if your research interests align and stir up interest in your candidacy.
For this, you need to search through the faculty list on the program’s website and identify a person or people who works in your area of specialization.
This allows you to clarify more specific research directions, and simply seek more details regarding ongoing research methods. With these, you can ultimately decide whether the program is the right fit for you.
A good idea is to read up on the professor’s recent articles.
2. To find out if the Professors’ laboratory or research group is accepting new students in your proposed term/semester of enrollment.
The catch is that when you ask this, the Professor can inform you if they will be hiring TA/RA in the semester you want to resume.
Professors already know what their budgets are like for upcoming terms so, when you ask them if they are accepting new students, their responses are enough for you to decide whether you should still apply to that university for your MS or PhD program.
3. To sell yourself properly to the Professor/Research Group
Asides finding out if they are accepting new students (GA Positions), this is a very good opportunity to share a summary of your background and experience. See this as a job interview somewhat.
What the email should look Like
Now, that we have talked about the “Why”, let us talk about how the email should look like. It is no gainsaying to opine that Professors are generally very busy so your email should be concise and timely.
Many will suggest you go straight to the point and send the emails on weekdays (preferably mornings). I think these suggestions are reasonable. The subject of the email should be very simple and clear. For example,:
“Fall 2021: Prospective Graduate Student Inquiry”
“Inquiry From Potential Graduate Applicant”
“Fall 2021: Expression of Interest to work in your Research Group at The University of Alabama”
As shared by the How to email the faculty, the email can be divided into 4 paragraphs.
pp1: Introduce yourself,
pp2: Inquire about whether they are taking students
pp3: Be clear about why you are interested in that faculty member
pp4: Get any advice they might offer
Let me share a sample from this same group another view that I think you may find interesting: Quora | What do I write in the first email to a professor that I am applying to be his graduate student?