If you are a student applying to graduate school for an MS or MBA, one of the key things you always want to do is contact professors at prospective schools and seek their advice for funding or admission. The most important thing for that is the professor you email to reads your email…it all boils down to the correct “Subject Line” for the email you send.
Many a time, students are used to being quite informal and put in the wrong subject line when they send emails to professors. Due to this very fact, it is never even opened by the professors and gets deleted. In this article, we will review what is the best subject line to use and why would professors read your email, if you use the right subject line when you apply or ask about MS or MBA-related questions, or ask about funding for TA, RA, or GA.
What email Subject line do most of us use? Issue?
In our everyday email conversations, many of us are used to putting standard or catchy subject lines for emails that we send to anyone. A few of them are as below:
- Hello! How are you?
- Hi, How are you?
- Need info
- Thank you
- Met you on a bus, train
A few years ago, I was exactly the same way as everyone, not sure what to put in the subject line, when I email admissions or professors seeking information. Sometimes I got replies, sometimes I did not get replies. I was really mad at the admissions team and many professors as they did not email me back.
Guess what, after I got admission and started studying MS in the US, I got to know that professors typically do not even open emails, if they do not find the subject line relevant for them as there is so much spam and all sorts of promotional emails they get. Also, they handle lot of subjects, research, and many other administrative things, so the amount of email is crazy and they only choose to respond to something that they understand is important.
In short, “NO ONE really opens your email, they ONLY read the Subject line and decide to read or delete the email if they do not recognize it”. If you put in any of the subject lines like above, it is deleted and never read. That’s the problem.
Importance of a good subject line when emailing Admissions or Professors
I started my first Graduate (MS) class and the professor handed out the syllabus. The guidelines on the first page under the contact section:
“ Email Subject should at least say the COURSE NUMBER and some relevant info, if not, Emails will be deleted as SPAM”. I thought to myself “ Oh my God ! none of my emails were read that I wrote to many professors”. Just imagine the situation from a professor’s perspective, professors teach two to three classes and the students they interact with can vary anywhere from 50 – 200, also they are in all the faculty email listings, they get emails from University, personal emails, advertisement emails, etc…
The reality is, there are way too many emails for them to open, read and validate. On top of this, there is a virus threat. So, NO ONE really opens the email if they see anything that is not familiar or really meaningful. Please avoid the subject line as I stated in the beginning.
It is the same case with the admissions department. A university’s strength can vary from 10,000 to 70,000. Imagine how many people would be applying. at least 30,000 to 200,000. Admissions do not take time to read every email that does not say any appropriate info about seeking admission. They just delete or put it in another list and review it later. Overall, the point is, the email subject is very critical. In fact, these days, personally, I do not read any email if I do not see the proper subject line, because I get so many emails…
What should the subject line be for emailing graduate school admissions or Professors?
To write an effective email, it is very important to have a proper subject line. Your subject line will make the person reading the email, either open the email or delete the same. It is more critical for you to put the perfect subject information when you email admissions as they get thousands of emails.
Your email subject line should contain critical information about your request like
- What is your status? Current student or prospective student?
- When do you want to apply for admission?
- What is your question? Can you come up with the whole gist of your question in 3 words?
- What is the urgency of the information?
- What is your topic of interest in academic research?
I can keep writing a few more, but fundamentally these are the key things you have to ask yourself when you put in a subject line.
If you were to put a short subject line format, it would look like
[Your Status]: [Reason for emailing]
If we translate the above subject line format into sample subject lines for admission, they would look like the below.
Sample Subject lines for emailing Graduate School for Admissions
- Fall 2023 Prospective Student: Need Admission Status
- Spring 2023 Student: Seeking Scholarship Information
- Summer 2024 Graduate Student: I-20 Status
- Prospective Student 2024: Need admission info
- Prospective student 2025: Need I20 Info, URGENT!
If you carefully observe all the above, anyone can identify what you need. They look quite simple and crisp, don’t they? I cannot believe I screwed up these things before 🙂
Sample Subject lines to email Professor for Graduate School, funding, research
As I mentioned above, professors do NOT read everything. You have to convince Professor with your subject line that they should read the email without deleting it. Because you do not have a course name or subject name with you, you have to be very cautious. All the guidelines that were told above apply here too.
- Fall 2023 Prospective Student: Research Info needed
- Summer 2024 Student: Artificial Intelligence Research Question
- Spring 2024 Prospective student: Need Admission Information
- Fall 2025 Student: Need info on Research prospects at UW-Madison
- Prospective Research Student: Cybersecurity Paper on Encryption
- Summer 2025: Research Assistantships Info needed, URGENT!
Why would a professor or admissions team reply to your emails with such a Subject line?
If you send an email with the right subject line having the keyword like PROSPECTIVE STUDENT, the odds of you getting a response is very high. The simple reason is no professor would throw away any email if it has a prospective student because you are a potential student to the university and they will read it and forward it right person if they do not know.
Think about it, prospective students are the future customers for the School, and they do not want to lose customers :). Also, not just it is business for them, most of the professors are very friendly and really appreciate someone taking the time to ask about admission or funding. So, they will take it seriously and reply or at least forward it to the right team.
Make sure the subject line is crisp and does not exceed over the readable subject line. Usually 50 to 60 characters.
Also, check out the article on Sample Email templates for emailing Professors for Funding, Admissions, etc.
What has been your experience with emailing professors? What were your subject lines?