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Email is a very convenient way to communicate with the faculty for potential research opportunities or funding. However we all know they are very busy people and they get lots of emails, hence generic emails are likely to be ignored. We will do some discussion on the topic Writing a Professional E-mail to Prospective Supervisor.
So before you start writing such an email, here it is what you should do to improve the chances of your email to be read:
1) Select 2 to 3 faculty/ Research Staff (better if not from same division or department but from different universities). Avoid sending multiple emails in the same group.
2) Check the webpage of the faculty if they have defined any guidelines about emails or contact, follow that, e.g. many US academics define this on their webpages.
3) Check the faculty research interests and published material to know more details, and only send email when your interest align with his/ her and you have read some of their published work.
4) Send a simple, brief and concise email consisting of;
a. Use Professional email address.
b. Clear subject line (e.g. Enquiry for XXX funded opportunity or Prospective PhD applicant or Inquiry from a prospective PhD applicant)
c. Salutation (If faculty is a Professor then refer to that else write Dr. Surname.
d. Introduction (about yourself, how you came to know position / intent of writing).
e. Body (promote yourself as a strong candidate here by showcasing your skills & achievements) and,
f. Conclusion (asking them time for interview, ideas and aspirations for the future etc.).
g. Sign off with a thank you.
5) Avoid using the trendy words, jargons and slangs.
6) Do not lie or make extravagant claims e.g. if you have read their papers then only say this or if your previous modules or thesis is in same area then only mentions this or if you have excellent academic record then only claim this or if you have proper hard evidences of your skills then only write these.
Writing a Professional E-mail to Prospective Supervisor
7) Before sending email, review/ proofread the email and make sure that your email consist of complete coherent sentences, contains no spelling errors, no colorful/ different fonts, no part of email is in all caps. Be aware of time zones also.
We all like to have instant response but be realistic in your expectations. You should not expect an immediate response from the faculty so do not start sending multiple emails, give a week or two before sending a reminder.
9) If you receive a reply, send an acknowledgment email saying ‘Thank You’. In case he/she has asked about any further / particular information, do provide as soon as possible or let know in case you cannot provide them asking some logical time period.
10) The best way to approach a potential supervisor and to get positive reply is by doing your part of homework first i.e. after full preparation e.g. making appropriate CV, scanned degrees/ transcripts copies, language test scores, some written material as evidence like essay on research interests or research proposal but do not send them all in first email, except for CV/ Resume until you get a positive reply.
11) Sometimes prospective supervisor nominate student for a particular scholarship / funding and student get to know the results, do not assume that prospective supervisor also knows the results (whatever is the reply i.e. even if you are rejected), do take time to send an email updating about the status (even for rejection) and thank the faculty for nomination (you never know, you may end up getting personal funding from same person or a nomination again next year).
12) After sending an email, always be prepared for an interview through MS Team, Skype, Zoom etc., so learn how to use these. Think about questions that they may ask you and write down answers to that.
13) Next time you plan to send an email, you can use same email, but do not use “RE” or “FW” neither “copy & paste” option but rather spend some time to alter/ improve the text by restarting from step 2.