Emailing professors

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
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Emailing professors

Post by meredith » Fri Mar 30, 2012 9:24 pm

Hey all,

I know that for some disciplines it's basically required to email professors as part of the admissions process to show everyone that you're driven and motivated and such. Do you know if that kind of thing is important for math applications? I'm mostly just worried that I'm going to get committed to a field of study that I won't end up pursuing.

Long story short,
Did you email professors when you applied? Did it seem to make a difference?

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Re: Emailing professors

Post by rmg512 » Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:43 pm

A friend of mine got in correspondence with professors at 2 institutions as he was applying, and those were the first 2 places he got into. Granted, the 2 places didn't have very competitive admission.

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Re: Emailing professors

Post by owlpride » Sat Mar 31, 2012 8:37 pm

I didn't communicate with professors ahead of time and my applications turned out pretty successful.

I think that communicating with faculty would be legitimate if you have special needs that are only going to be met in a small number of departments. Very specific research interests, for example, or if you are applying to tiny graduate programs where it's essential that you like the people there. (My undergraduate college had a grad department with ~8 professors and ~6 graduate students total. Several prospective students visited before they even applied, which makes sense given the size of the program.)

Of course, if you are currently doing research and/or learning cutting-edge material, you can always contact professors to talk about math. I would not go out of my way though to try to talk to people ahead of time "just because". Professors (at selective graduate programs) seem rather annoyed by the flood of applicants emailing them because they think it's good for their chances.

Getting in touch with professors before or during the application process seems more important in disciplines where graduate students are normally funded by the research grants of individual faculty. Luckily, we don't have to deal with this. :)

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Re: Emailing professors

Post by meredith » Mon Apr 02, 2012 1:12 am

Wow, thanks owlpride. That's exactly what I was thinking. :)

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Re: Emailing professors

Post by Hassan1 » Wed Oct 01, 2014 3:11 am

I have the same question,Is it usual to email professors before applying?

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Re: Emailing professors

Post by dlee5h » Mon Oct 13, 2014 9:55 am

Emailing professors can often be helpful, but they can also hurt your chances for admission. Some things to keep in mind when reaching out:

- Send a professional email No spelling or grammatical errors, no slang, etc.
- Read and understand their research Many profs have websites with links to their publications, so look at some of their recent work to get a sense of what they're interested in. If you can't understand what they're writing about, get in touch with some of their students or talk to a prof at your institution who does research in a similar field
- Ask an intelligent question about their work Something you'd like clarification on or a question that hasn't been addressed in the literature
- Don't ask about admissions questions You can find all that information on the dept website or reach out to an administrator
- Don't be too pesky Most people don't like getting email from people they don't know, so they wouldn't like getting 10 consecutive emails either. If the prof doesn't respond, wait a week or so and reach out again. If they still don't respond, it's probably best to leave them be (or else, they might tell the admissions committee that you're annoying!)

I've reached out to a prof at a school I'm applying to and he told me I should make sure to indicate our correspondence on my app so he can put in a good word. If you can do this well, it just might get you into your borderline schools. Good luck!

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