How to Email a Professor about a Grad Application

It’s easy to forget that faculty members and professors are human. They have families, pets, and they get distracted by Netflix as much as you do. You can also imagine how many emails they get from their students and from potential students, so keep your email concise, cordial, and compelling! Make the professor feel like they are the only person with whom you’re interested in working, and that you’ve taken the time to read their work. Make a real connection (even if you’re emailing 20 different profs!). And remember, just because a professor doesn’t work on the same topic as you, their method/approach/framework will probably help you in your own work! Your topic is only 50% of what you need in grad school. Methodology is the other 50%. Don’t miss the opportunity to work with a professor who thinks like you, but works on a topic differing from yours.

Email Template

Dear [title] [name]:

I am currently [a/an degree] student at [university/college]. I am writing to inquire about the [department] program at [university/college]. My current [degree] project covers [topic], and I would like to continue into a PhD with a focus on [topic]. Your work on [topic or title] has provided some valuable insights into my own project, and your [pick something about their work] will be useful as I further develop my [pick something about your work].

If you have time in the coming weeks to Zoom or chat by phone, I would appreciate the time to discuss my work further and to learn more about the advantages and accommodations of the [department and university].

[a nicety to end the email]

Sincerely,
[your name]

Email Sample

Dear Professor Stalinstache, 

I am currently an MA student at the University of California, Davis. I am writing to inquire about the History program at George Washington. My current MA project covers the rise of nationalisms in Eastern Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries, and I would like to continue into a PhD with a focus on top-down education reforms aimed at creating the “new citizen.”  Your article on Japan during the same period, “Japan and Fables: Children’s Stories and Empire,” has provided some valuable insights into my own project, and your interdisciplinary use of periodicals, literature, and material culture will be useful as I further develop my approach.

If you have time in the coming weeks to Zoom or chat by phone, I would appreciate the time to discuss my work further and to learn more about the advantages and accommodations of the History Department at GW.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,
The Guru

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