How to Network for MA or PhD Applications

One of the most important parts of applying to a graduate program is networking. This process often can be the most difficult part of an application process, especially if you have anxiety about emailing professors (or anyone for that matter). 

In the “Before Times” when travel was easy, you could make your way to universities and see faculty in person. Now, it is best to solicit information through email, and make contact with any professor you might mention in your application (yes, you will have to supply names of faculty members in your statements and, for some universities, in your online application). 

Get to know the faculty member through their online profiles *before* you email them. Look at their CV, read one or two of their articles, and make sure you know enough about them to write a personalized email. Your initial email should not be a copy/pasted template email. People see right through what you are doing, so give yourself a chance to actually have them read your email. And, hopefully, respond. The more personalized it is to the faculty member, the higher the likelihood they will respond. AND KEEP IT SHORT! Remember: if you are cold emailing a person who has never seen or spoken to you, they do not want your life story in a first email.

Keep your email on topic: your interest in the program, university, AND the faculty member. Your email should only be 4-7 lines explaining who you are, what your research is, why you are contacting this particular faculty member, and soliciting advice for your application.

Do not send the same email to multiple faculty members (especially if they are at the same university!).  Faculty members often forward emails they receive from students who are applying to programs because they might think you will be a better fit with one of their colleagues. If you do not write a different email to each professor, it will look like you are not serious enough about them as a scholar/researcher, and it will look like you are only trying to garner favor for your application. Yes, we know you are, but don’t make is so obvious! Make them think that they are special.

In addition to emailing faculty, find some students from the department and email them. Often, you will find that students are willing to tell you about the department or university’s faults, which will help you decide if you actually want to spend time at that university. Be cautious of what you say to them; they *might* speak with their advisor about you. And sometimes, faculty members will ask their students if prospective applicants have reached out. You want to leave a positive impression with everyone.

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