TakeruK wrote:My opinion is very similar to the linked blog post. I followed this strategy in 2012 and it worked well for me. The one big thing I would disagree with Dr. Evans is that if someone doesn't reply, that doesn't mean they should not be your advisor. I think some profs can still be good, communicative advisors even if they ignore these type of emails. Of course, when you are later deciding if you want to work for them, consider whether they replied and how they replied as ways of determining their style (and whether you would enjoy working for them). But I wouldn't rule out any school or advisor just because of a non-response.
Another point where I have heard other advice is whether or not to attach your CV and transcripts in the first email. I learned to not do that and I didn't do that. But after becoming a grad student and talking to some professors, they said they wish more students would do this so that all the information they need is right there. They said that while it would be great to discuss research possibilities with everyone, realistically, they are looking for strong students with good experience to join their group and they would much prefer to be able to look at your CV and transcript and decide whether or not they might be interested in your application before spending a lot of time discussing science with you. So, take that advice as you will.
In case it is of interest, I sent emails to 2-4 profs per school, 8 schools total. My responses were about 1/3 long, detailed replies specific to me (some of which had follow-up Skype chats), 1/3 short/canned responses like "Thank you for your message. Yes, I am taking students, but students will be admitted to the department rather than a specific advisor. I would be happy to chat with you further after admission decisions are made." And 1/3 professors did not reply to me at all.
And the person that became my eventual PhD advisor was not even someone I had contacted ahead of time!
astroprof wrote:In response to the original question, whether to include CV/transcripts in emails to prospective advisors, it depends on the purpose of the email. If you want to know if the professor is still taking students/has space in his/her lab (a reasonable question as the professoriate ages), then there is no need to include CV/transcripts. If you want to know if you will be accepted to work with this professor, then the additional academic information is helpful. However, I would caution against sending this information, particularly transcripts which may contain personally identifying information that you would prefer not to have circulating in the internet "ether" for anyone/everyone to read. First, even if your documents indicate that you are the world's most-accomplished-undergraduate-physics-student-ever, admissions decisions are also based on letters of recommendation and other factors that you cannot append to your email. For example, in my department, we have rejected applicants who have had nearly-perfect scores, grades, and previous research experience because the letters of recommendation indicated that these individuals were very difficult to work with and did not respond well to advice/critiques. Second, for physics and astronomy departments in most US universities, admissions decisions are made by a committee, so no single professor can tell you now, before the committee has met, whether you will be admitted or not. Thus, if you receive a response, it is likely to be a welcoming response recommending that you apply to the program, regardless of your actual merit. [Note that the process is very different in other countries, where you may be applying to work with a specific professor on a specific project.] Because of this, I do not recommend contacting professors (in the US) in advance of the admissions process unless you have very specific concerns for which you think such an interaction will help you decide whether or not to apply to their program. Also note that blanket e-mails to the entire department will be noted, and will not be considered in your favor.
astro_ice wrote:Wow, thank you so much for all your informative advice TakeruK! It's really helpful to get a graduate student's perspective on this. Can I ask how you emailed the profs you contacted before applying to the grad schools?
I saw on another thread (about "suck mails") yours and many other students' approach/opinions to contacting professors; someone mentioned their emails were like a mini SOP, but I think that may be a bit much for professors to read before even knowing us. Also, like you, I am from a Canadian university as well, but in contrast, a professor from my university specifically states on her webpage do not email her about graduate admissions before the student is admitted and to not do this in general, so tbh I am a bit confused about this entire practice.
Thanks again for your reply tho!
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