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Tips for Emailing Professors at Graduate Programs

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Many graduate school applicants wonder whether they should contact professors who work at the graduate programs to which they have applied. If you are thinking about contacting such a professor, carefully consider your reasons. If you decide to contact a faculty member at your desired graduate institution, do so by email.

Here are some tips on what to do and not do when emailing faculty:

  • Personalize the message

  • If you send an e-mail the focus of your contact should be on the professor not on you.

  • Do not use any fancy formatting

  • Send it from a professional email address (that is, your school email or an address that includes your name).

  • Do not use emoticons.

  • Do not attach anything to your e-mail. If you want to provide additional content send the URL.

  • Don't spend time tooting your horn. Don't tell the professor how smart or hard-working you are. All graduate students are smart and hard-working. Don’t send an email to sell yourself. v
  • Don't send an e-mail more than a few lines long. Some say no longer than screen-full. I say no longer than a paragraph.

  • Don't send information about your GRE scores, GPA, etc. The purpose of the e-mail is to ask for information about professor’s research or the program. It is not time to sell yourself.

  • Err on the side of formality. Address the professor formally. In other words address first faculty members as Professor or Dr. rather than by their first name (and never by Miss, Ms., Mrs., or Mr.).

  • Make your subject line useful. It should convey the subject of the message.

  • Spell the professor’s name right.

  • Never send spam e-mail to long lists of professors. Any message that you send should be tailored to the professor in question.

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