How to e-mail a potential graduate adviser


It’s always tough to know how to approach anyone when you’re looking for a job. And the academic field somehow sounds especially tough.

One science professor — who’s less than warm and fuzzy — gives some advice in the Chronicle of Higher Education about how to approach a potential graduate adviser through e-mail.

I’ve condensed her tips to make things easy.

The key thing to remember: Your first e-mail to a potential graduate adviser should be professional and short.

What to include:

  • Name of your undergrad institution
  • Major and minor fields
  • Graduation date
  • Relevant research experience
  • Field of interest for grad study
  • Whether you’re interested in just a master’s, a master’s and possibly a PhD, or definitely a PhD
  • A request to meet — such as at a conference — if you’re really serious about working with the adviser. Just understand that he or she may not have time.
  • Requests for specific, relevant information you can’t get any other way

What not to include:

  • Questions of money (tuition, benefits, salary for a research assistantship)
  • Information about your personal circumstances (spouses, significant others, etc.)
  • Your full CV (though you could always include a link to one)
  • A statement informing the adviser that you’ll be meeting. (That’s presumptuous.)
  • A request for the adviser’s cell phone number
  • A Facebook friend request
  • Vague requests for more information
  • Anything that makes your note look like a mass e-mail

One last tip:

Find out who the adviser’s current and recent grad students are and ask them about their experience with that professor.