Apart from acquiring in-depth knowledge, a PhD doctoral degree is a prestigious recognition. It can boost your career opportunities in academia, research, and innovation and broaden your networking horizons. However, considering a doctoral program requires significant time and effort; the application process is tailored to help institutes select the most promising candidates. While the PhD application process involves various kinds of nitty-gritty, communicating with potential PhD supervisors is a common step all candidates need to ace.
Why Should You Reach out to Potential PhD Supervisors?
Before or while submitting your admission to universities for a PhD, you are asked to reach out to potential PhD supervisors who are faculty members at these universities. By contacting potential PhD supervisors, you check that your university of choice has a faculty member with a similar research interest and can supervise the research you intend to carry out. If this person is willing to supervise you, they will not only mentor and guide you throughout your PhD program but will also advocate for your admission to the university.
After approving the former’s admission, most universities in foreign countries, including the US, do not believe in ‘manufacturing’ a working relationship between a PhD student and their supervisor. Instead, they strongly recommend fostering this connection through prior outreach to understand synergies between both parties.
Ways to Contact Potential PhD Supervisors
To address all your queries on how to contact potential PhD supervisors, we have outlined some basic steps.
1. Plan Your Timelines
Typically, doctoral programs in the US have two admission intakes in an academic year – the fall semester and the spring semester. Depending upon the semester you want to target, you will have to commence your preparation at least a year in advance. For example, if you seek admission to the Fall 2023 program, you must prepare your application by or before Fall 2022. The deadlines for submitting applications for the Fall 2023 program would be December 2022/January 2023. Planning will allow you time to take any tests required, prepare your application, and contact potential PhD supervisors.
2. Identify Your Area of Research
It is critical to identify your research area and interests before starting any PhD application. Prepare a brief research proposal of around 500 words that outlines your area of research, the broader aim, the objective of your research question, why you want to carry out this research, the methodology, etc. You can share this with potential PhD supervisors. Prospective supervisors will welcome such clarity of thought as it outlines your PhD agenda and highlights your commitment.
3. Do Your Research
Carrying out thorough research on a university and faculty members or the best destination for a PhD will lay the groundwork for your applications. Once you have identified your research interest, identify universities offering doctoral programs in your area of interest or undertaking research in similar fields. Further, learn about the faculty members teaching in relevant departments at the universities you shortlist. Go through their websites, recent publications, and current research projects to understand if they align with your interests. You can also reach out to members currently enrolled in these doctoral programs to get their feedback on potential PhD supervisors.
4. Identifying Relevant Supervisors
One way of creating a list of the most relevant supervisors is to go through recent publications in your research area and note the commonly cited researchers or supervisors mentioned. You can also reach out to the university department concerned, and they can put you in touch with the most appropriate faculty, depending on your research interests. It is essential to find a supervisor aligned with your interest so that they can lend the necessary expertise to support your dissertation.
5. Make Formal Contact
Emailing potential PhD supervisors is the preferred mode of communication for establishing contact. Before making any contact, research the supervisor thoroughly and be well-prepared. Any potential PhD supervisor email sample you refer to online will include:
- A clear subject line
- Formal language, correct salutation, and grammar
- A brief academic background
- Outline of intent and area of interest
- Personalization to show familiarity with the supervisor’s research work
- A CV and academic transcripts
- Previous academic papers and publications
6. Put Your Best Foot Forward
A well-drafted email leaves a good impression on the supervisor. The email should make a case for why your background makes you a suitable PhD candidate and justify the need for the supervisors’ guidance. Any missing detail could result in the potential PhD supervisor not responding to your email.
7. Give them Material to Respond to You
Make a list of questions to ask potential PhD supervisors. Include them in your email to prompt a quicker reply from the researcher. Add a CTA. The questions could be about their research, a potential meeting, or their interest in supervising new students.
8. Allow them Sufficient Time to Respond
Supervisors are known to be busy individuals with ongoing projects, research students, and academia taking up their time. There will be other candidates emailing them too. If you don’t hear back from them in two weeks, you can send a polite follow-up email. If you still don’t get a response, it is most likely that the supervisor is not onboarding new candidates, and you can streamline your outreach to other supervisors.
9. Request a Meeting
If you get a positive response, request a meeting with your potential supervisor and suggest some time slots to schedule the same. A face-to-face meeting may not be feasible, but a video call is a good alternative. The meeting will help you understand the supervisor’s personality, working style and will also be an opportunity to ask any questions.
10. Share Additional Info
Share any additional information that might help your admission when you communicate with the supervisor. If you have access to external funding or scholarships, be sure to highlight it as it will make you an attractive Ph.D. candidate. Any certifications or test scores (GRE/GMAT) and English language proficiency tests TOEFL Vs. IELTS Vs. Duolingo should also be documented.
Preparing your PhD application is only one part of the admission process. The most important part is identifying and developing a rapport with potential PhD supervisors. To effectively communicate with your prospects, you need to be well-prepared and well-researched and have command of your chosen field.
Interested in pursuing a PhD in the future but unsure of your field of interest? Book a career counseling online with Mindler and gain first-hand career insights.