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A Guide to Approaching Professors for PhD Funding

A Guide to Approaching Professors for MSc & PhD Funding

Disclaimer: Please note not all USA universities professors prefer that students should approach them for PhD funding, however, in some schools they do prefer it and it improves your chances of selection. This guide will prepare you well for those universities where approaching professors can be an important element in the admission and funding.

Teachers are always a stellar source of information if you want to get a grant or a financial aid. You do need to make sure that you contact the right teacher and you need to make sure that the professor is ready to help you. Some teachers are more than ok with this sort of approach, others are not. The idea is to know who to contact and once you do that you will notice that the results can be more than ok. Here are some great ideas to keep in mind in such a situation.

Who should you contact?

Usually, it’s important to find only a select few professors that can help you with this. The idea is to not share a ton of emails with a long list of professors. This will be seen as spam. Not only that, but some professors will even blacklist and reject you. The focus is on making sure that you identify which are the best professors that can actually help you. Make sure that you study their current students and do some research in order to get the best results. Stay in touch with professors that have a pleasure when it comes to teaching within their industry. This can help quite a lot and it brings in front a distinct and rewarding experience all the time.

Plus, you can see what the professors are researching simply by checking out their web page, that’s where you can also get in touch with them. Basically, you have to see the type of studies that they do and what type of results you can expect based on the students they had.

Make sure that you do your homework

When you find a good advisor, you will want to contact right away. Avoid that, what you want to do is to read one of the recent papers from that advisor. Check their homepage too. If their ideas don’t stand out to you, then you want to avoid wasting your time contacting. If the research is nice and interesting, then all you have to do is to send an introduction email and that’s it. That can definitely be a good approach.

Make sure that you check programs of interest and find a list with sites that showcase the research talent and areas of those professors. You can even use search engines to find papers, so this can be very helpful.

If you do want to send an introductory email, try to make sure that you keep it short and you also make it polite and cordial. Again, make it to the point, don’t beat around the bush. The professors can be very busy, so writing a shorter message can actually be a very good idea, which is exactly what you want to take into consideration here.


  • In the first paragraph, talk about yourself in up to 3 sentences. Keep it short and clean, also talk about your intentions too, as that’s the thing that really matters a lot for you in the end.

  •  The subject line needs to talk about applying to the Seasonal PHD session of your choosing, and introduce yourself as a prospective student there.

  • When it comes to the second paragraph, here you have to add a description of your interests. State how you found the research of this professor and how it matters to you. Here you also have to showcase the areas you are interested in. You can flatter the professor, but don’t overdo it if possible. Moreover, you should also note the fact that you got some rewards and you can even list them too.

  • Adding a link where you place the CV and transcript can be a very good idea. This way the professor can identify whether you are a fit candidate or not.

  • Ending will require you to request the professor if he can meet with you and discuss about it. Suggesting some applications of the work or extensions can be a very good idea.

Once you send the email, you will have to wait for quite a lot of time. Remember that many professors receive tons of emails, so you have to wait for at least a few weeks. You can also send a follow-up email if 2-3 weeks have passed and you didn’t get a reply. If you don’t receive a follow up to the email again, then the professor doesn’t want to be your advisor.

Keep in mind that checking for potential errors will be a very good idea. Spell-checking and removing any grammar mistakes can be very important. Keep the sentences short and sweet and use the structure listed above.