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4 Tips to email Professors for Graduate School Admission, Funding in USA?

One of the key things to increase your chances of admission or funding such as TA, RA or GA is to email professors and getting in touch with them during admission process. Your challenge is to make sure you write a good email that shows your genuine interest and zeal to work for the professor with passion. Many students have questions like below

  • How to email professor for getting admission ?
  • How to write email to get funding or fellowship from professor ?
  • What to email professor ? Contents of email ?
  • Should I ask for funding or NOT in first email ?
  • What if I get a reply, how should I proceed?
  • What should the subject line be for email to professor ?
  • What kind of English should I use ? Simple?

I will try to address some of these questions and these are tips to email professors, so that you get a response.

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1. Subject line for Emailing professors for Graduate School Admission

Subject line is the most important piece of email. Most the emails are not even opened by professors; they just look at subject line and delete them. The main reason is, they get so much email from university, students, research, etc.  If you put in subjects like ‘Hello’, ‘Hi’, ‘How are you?’ , ‘admission’, ‘scholarship’, etc. The chances are your email is not even read. They will just delete it. For more info, read this article: Importance of Subject Line for Admissions or Professors.  Here are some sample subject lines to email professors for admission:

  • Fall 2019 Prospective Student: Research Info needed
  • Summer 2019 Student: Artificial Intelligence Research Question
  • Spring 2020 prospective student: Need Admission Information
  • Fall 2019 Student : Need info on Research prospects at UW-Madison
  • Summer 2019 : Research Assistantships Info needed, URGENT !

The key word to mention in subject line is PROSPECTIVE STUDENT. The trick is, no professor would throw away any email if it has prospective student because, you are a potential student to the university and they will read it and reply or forward it right person if they do not know. Think about it, prospective students are the future customers for the School.

2. English, Grammar and Punctuations in the Email:

I have seen students write emails without using proper English, especially grammar and punctuations.  If you do not write email without proper English, it clearly indicates your incompetency and lack of good writing skills.  Professors do NOT want to even reply to these kind of emails. They are academicians, writing good English is mandatory to succeed. The expect someone applying to Graduate school to have proper writing skills and ability to articulate your ideas properly.  So, be careful when you write email. Do not use chat language like ‘c u then, hw r u ?, life gud…’ . You have to write proper English with proper capitalizations, punctuations, and grammar. If you do not have these, you may not get positive response. In fact, in one of my first graduate classes, one of my professors told us that he will not respond to emails that do not have proper English and we may get negative points too. So, be careful!

3. Research Information of Professor in Email :

Your email should clearly demonstrate that  you have a complete understanding about the professors research area and what he actually does in that area.  The key thing to understand is, every professor specializes in particular research area and they have research grants only related to that particular research area. They can only consider you for funding, if you are interested in the research they specialize in.  When you write an email to professor, you should mention about research and  use some technical jargon related to his research area. You may only do that if you have read few research papers that they have written. So, if you can read few research papers of the professors and mention about them in the email, it clearly shows that you have done your homework and they will be interested in at least replying to you. You should try to write your technical interests and be able to tie to back to the research area of the professor. You can mention about your research papers or technical presentations. If you have none, just show your interest by doing some homework about topic. For instance, you may say, “ I am very interested to pursue research in Neural Networks and their impact on real time decisions.”  You have to do your homework and write as much research info as you can.

4.How to Ask about Admission, Fellowships or Assistantships in Email :

Asking directly that I need admission or funding is a very bad idea. It does not show that you are interested. You have to frame your sentences properly indicating your interest in school and program.  Honestly, do not try to just create a fake interest or impression by saying your school is good, blah, blah, blah.  Be genuine and write sincerely what you know about the school and what kind of research is at school.  Do some homework about school, read the department website and research area, program info. You have to indicate that you are interested in the school because you like so and so stuff and you would like to be part of it. For funding, you may ask like “I like to do research in this area, how is the funding situation for new students in this area ?”. “ Do new students get any assistantships  in first semester ?”.  By phrasing it this way, you are not being desperate. It is asking in general.  Most of the times, professors say, once you arrive here, meet me and we can discuss funding information.

Check out the Sample Templates for Emailing Professors for funding or admission on how to exactly write and what to reply.  Do you have any other tips ?


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  1. I am in my fourth Semester. Is it possible to email profs about their research this early or I could only do it during the admission process ?

  2. would it be good idea to go for a Ph.D after completing M.Sc. while you have a business mind more than an academic? I have completed BS in Electrical Engineering in 2013. Secondly i need to support my family after MSc so would i be able to support them while pursuing a PhD.

  3. thanks for such a good post, i read it and its quite helping .i wanted to ask you that would it be good idea to go for a Ph.D after completing M.Sc. while you have a business mind more than an academic? I have completed BS in Electrical Engineering in 2013. Secondly i need to support my family after MSc so would i be able to support them while pursuing a PhD.

  4. Before using these tips, you should consider the messages in your e-mail thoroughly because a few professors have negative aspects to these methods. For example, my professor once told me that it seems like you try to enter home through a window rather than a door. It is a double-edged sword. Although it is capable of increasing your chance to be admitted, the other side may deplete your future either. Be careful!

  5. these are alright tips, but, DO NOT EVER write URGENT to a professor at all. If it is urgent, frame it in a different way. for example, if it is a last-min question on how to apply, you might say that it your question is “time-sensitive.” If you need a letter of rec in less that two weeks, apologize profusely, say that you are embarrassed about not having asked earlier and say that you will provide any information regarding your qualifications that will allow them to finish in a timely manner.

    also, this should be obvious, but also DO NOT WRITE TO A PROFESSOR IN CAPS. as stressed and busy and depressed as you are, they are always more busy and their time is simply more valuable than yours. writing in caps is rude in general unless your excited about something on 4chan, so keep it out of professional emails.

  6. It is really a valuable tips i have got. i am happy if you send me one sample letter exercising the above tips.
    I Have MPS in Integrated watershed management and hydrology from Cornell University.
    I have a B.Sc in Plant production and Dry Land Farming From Debub University, Ethiopia.
    research interest on agricultural water management
    a bunch of thanks.

  7. Great tips!

    I’ll like to add a couple, which apply to Indian students:
    1. Do NOT use Indian terminology and words in your emails. For example, the professor will get confused if you write ‘Final year project’. The term used in the US is ‘Senior Design Project’. Such things only confuse the professor and you do not get your point across effectively. Some non-US terms used by Indian students include: ‘passed out’ of college in 2009, backlogs, ATKT, took a 1-year ‘drop’, extra-curricular activities, tech fest and a lot others. Don’t assume your college/university is famous and go ahead to write: “I passed out from TSEC with BE in EXTC in 2009”. The professor will be confused about terms like TSEC (a college in Mumbai, India), BE (Bachelor of Engineering), EXTC (Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering) and might think you FAINTED (that’s what ‘pass out’ refers to in the US).
    2. Do NOT assume the professor has a fair understanding of India. For example, you might have done a wonderful project at BSNL, but if you mention in your email that you did a project for BSNL or Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, do not expect the professor to know that it is a telecommunications company! Mention it as: BSNL – a major telecommunications company in India. It does not exist in America and the professor will be left wondering. Agreed that he can do an online search and figure out, but you are unnecessarily increasing his burden/work and annoying him.
    Think from an American’s point-of-view and you’ll bridge the communication gap.
    3. If you are sending any documents attached with your email (research paper, project report, resume), send it in PDF- or doc-format. Do not use DOCX format. The professor might not have MS Office 2007/2008 installed and your documents might not get read. PDF-format is the best for attachments.
    4. If you have a formal e-mail address from your college or company, I would recommend using that over yahoo/gmail. It looks more professional.
    5. Professors are friendly with their students. Hence, refrain from using over-the-top respectful language. Avoid ‘To: Highly Respected Dr.XXXXX’


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