Do’s and Don’ts of Contacting a Prospective Supervisor

PhD Application

26th October 2023

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Securing a place in a PhD programme often involves reaching out to potential supervisors who can guide and mentor you throughout your research journey. However, initiating contact can be daunting, and it’s crucial to approach prospective supervisors in a professional and respectful manner. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the do’s and don’ts of contacting a prospective supervisor.

Do: Research the Supervisor’s Work

Before reaching out, take the time to research the prospective supervisor’s work, including their publications, research interests, and current projects. This will help you tailor your communication to demonstrate a genuine interest in their work and show that you’ve done your homework.

Do: Clearly State Your Research Interests

When contacting a prospective supervisor, clearly articulate your research interests and how they align with the supervisor’s expertise. Provide a brief overview of your proposed research topic and explain why you believe the supervisor is the right fit for your project.

Do: Attach Your CV and Transcript

Include an up-to-date CV and transcript with your email to provide the prospective supervisor with an overview of your academic and research background. This will give them a sense of your qualifications and achievements, making it easier for them to assess your suitability for the programme.

Do: Keep it Professional and Concise

Remember that prospective supervisors receive numerous emails from students, so it’s important to keep your communication professional and concise. Use a formal greeting, address the supervisor by their title and surname, and get straight to the point. Avoid using overly casual language or emojis.

Do: Ask Specific Questions

If you have specific questions about the supervisor’s research or the application process, don’t hesitate to ask. This shows that you’re proactive and genuinely interested in the programme. However, ensure that your questions are relevant and not readily available on the university’s website.

Don’t: Send a Generic Email

Sending a generic, one-size-fits-all email is a surefire way to make a negative impression. Tailor your email to each prospective supervisor, referencing their specific research interests and projects. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to consider their expertise and suitability for your project.

Don’t: Overwhelm Them with Too Much Information

While it’s important to provide an overview of your research interests and qualifications, avoid overwhelming the supervisor with too much information. Keep your email concise and to the point, focusing on the key aspects of your research and why you believe the supervisor is the right fit.

Don’t: Be Impatient

Supervisors are often busy with research, teaching, and administrative duties, so it may take some time for them to respond to your email. Be patient and avoid sending follow-up emails too soon. If you haven’t received a response after a reasonable amount of time, you can send a polite follow-up email.

Don’t: Take Rejection Personally

Not all prospective supervisors will be able to take on new students, and rejection is a part of the process. If a supervisor declines your request, don’t take it personally. Thank them for their time and consider reaching out to other potential supervisors who may be a better fit for your research interests.

Approach Supervisors with Respect and Professionalism

Contacting prospective supervisors is a critical step in securing a place in a PhD programme. By following these do’s and don’ts, you can approach supervisors in a professional and respectful manner, increasing your chances of securing a positive response.

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