PhD Admissions: Emailing Potential Advisors

A great way to initiate contact with a potential advisor is by introducing yourself through email! If you are applying to programs where you don’t need an advisor lined up, then you don’t necessarily have to do this step. However, if you are applying to programs where you are expected to have an advisor before you start, this step is especially important. Here are some of my tips for emailing potential advisors as well as the email templates I used:

PRO TIP #1: Make sure there are at least TWO professors whose research aligns with yours at each program you apply to! Only having one is risky because you never know what could happen (e.g., they could get a new position at another university and you don’t want to move with them).

PRO TIP #2: DON’T FORGET TO ATTACH YOUR CV!

PRO TIP #3: Read at least one recent article by your POI (professor of interest) so that you can mention their work in your email (e.g., one that was published in 2018 or later).

PRO TIP #4: Check the lab/program website BEFORE emailing POIs to make sure it doesn’t already say whether they are accepting students. Also check a professor’s personal website (if they have one).

PRO TIP #5: I sent out emails mid-late October, which I think is a good time to do so. By this time, professors will probably have a sense of whether they will be able to accept a student into their lab. However, if you want to email earlier, that’s also fine.

PRO TIP #6: Don’t be afraid to send follow-up emails if your POIs don’t respond the first time! I sent a few follow-up emails after 2 weeks and received responses from everyone. Also be sure to send the follow-up email in the same thread that you sent your initial email so your POIs can see your previous attempt to reach out. I had a 17/18 (94.4%) success rate with the following email templates, so I hope they work as well for you all!

Initial POI Email Template (Part 1)
Initial POI Email Template (Part 2)
Follow-up POI Email Template

32 thoughts on “PhD Admissions: Emailing Potential Advisors

  1. A motivating discussion is worth comment. I do believe that you should publish more about this subject, it may not be a taboo matter but usually people do not speak about such topics. To the next! Kind regards!!

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  2. Thank you so much for your help. Your tips are really amazing! I hope you can publish more soon. I have just written my CV and need someone to provide me some valuable feedback on that. Would you please help me with this matter and, if possible, send me your email address? I would be greatly appreciative of your valuable help.

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  3. Excellent post. I used to be checking constantly this weblog and I am impressed!
    Very useful information specially the closing section 🙂 I deal with such info much.
    I used to be looking for this particular info for a very lengthy time.
    Thanks and good luck.

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  4. Hi! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading your posts. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same topics? Thanks a ton!

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  5. Thank you for your information! I am an international student and have a question.
    Is the last sentence of the follow-up email template grammatically correct? I do not see conjunction before “will you?” I would appreciate it if you could help me with English.

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  6. Hello, thank you for this post! I am new to all this. I applied to a Master’s program in January. I thought for my particular program that it was not a requirement to secure a supervisor prior to applying. So I didn’t email any professors. Now people are hearing back and one successful applicant shared that I should’ve talked to a potential supervisor. Is it now too late to do that? or since I didn’t get rejection yet, I should go ahead and try emailing some professors? what would you advise? 🙂
    Thank you in advance!

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    1. Hi! I don’t think it would hurt to email professors. The worst that could happen is that they don’t respond (which could be the case for several reasons, so I wouldn’t take it personally). Go for it!

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    1. Thanks! I’ve had several mentors over the years that have believed in me and my abilities even when I didn’t (and still have a hard time doing so now). Their encouragement is why I have been able to slowly but surely advocate for myself and help others do the same!

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  7. Hi! Thank you for this post. Regarding pro tip #4, I’m wondering if it would still be a good idea to email potential advisors if they did list whether they are taking students in this application cycle. Should I confirm with them if they are taking students, or would that be redundant? Would it be a good idea to just introduce myself or ask another question? What are some other questions that may be good to ask?

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    1. Hi Lisa! If a potential advisor lists that they are taking students for this application cycle, I don’t think it’s necessary to email them (unless it is not clear that they are accepting students for the 2023-2024 school year, then you can maybe email to clarify as this info may be from last year).

      However, if you are wondering whether, for example, they are still planning on taking their research in a direction that relates to your interests in the near future, you can maybe ask that? Otherwise, I would say to maybe not send an email. Some professors also say that they don’t chat with students before interview/recruitment weekend so that’s also something to keep in mind. Hope this helps!

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      1. Thank you so much for the advice! It is really helpful! I did notice one professor wrote on her faculty page that it is not necessary to contact her ahead of time. Others encourage students to reach out ahead of time. So it sounds like it varies widely.

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  8. Thank you!! This was extremely helpful!! I’ve been overthinking these emails for weeks. This helped clarify something’s for me.

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