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Friday, April 19, 2024

Explainer: How to Email a Professor and Get Fast Response

Securing a postgraduate admission in Canada or Australia either on a full or partial scholarship require applicants to at first secure the content of a professor who will supervise them.

But how do you get the consent of a supervisor whom you have never met or had a previous conversation with?

Applicants who have undergone this process generally reach out to professors through e-mail. This is referred to as Cold Emailing

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Do Professors Actually Respond to Student Emails?

Professors are some of the busiest people in the world. They have hundreds of emails to attend to on a daily basis. They have to prepare for and take lectures, hold office hours, work with graduate students, assistants, and colleagues, attend conferences and other public events, and conduct, publish and present research.

However, even though they are short on time, there are ways to communicate with them via email and get a timely response so you can continue doing your work with fewer setbacks.

In the following paragraphs, we will show you how to email professors and get a fast response – positive response in this case.

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Use a Concise Email Subject

The subject of an email is the first part of the email that pops up on a user screen. The brevity and conciseness of the email determine whether the email will be read, replied to, trashed, or discarded as spam.

It is advisable that the length of your title is about 2-4 words and its content should be what can be read in 10 seconds at the maximum.

Below are examples of titles that can be used for your cold emails;

  • Research Enquiry
  • Masters Research Interest
  • Postgraduate Research Interest


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Use Full Pofessors Name in the Salutation

Dear Professor James Brian is a more appropriate way of addressing an academic than using Dear Prof. or Dear Prof Brian. Use the name in full as written on his or her research group or university website.

Stick to the Point

The introductory paragraph is a paragraph that contains your details and academic background. Here, you are expected to begin with your name, your academic details (CGPA or undergraduate or graduate status).

My name is Ahmed Olanrewaju, I am a final year student of ( or Bachelors degree holder/ I had my Bachelors degree) the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology in Nigeria. My current CGPA is 3.6 out of 4.0 and my Bachelors thesis was on the Extraction and Characterization of xxxxxxxxxxx which focused on xxxxxxxxxxx.

Next is to state the real reason for your email.

In order to continue in the pursuit of a career in Chemistry, I am applying to apply to your research group and to pursue a Masters degree at your university. 

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Make Research About the Pofessor

A professor of Law cannot supervise a student of Zoology, hence it is important to read about the professor’s research interests, recent publications, and possible future research.

The research interest of the processor has to align with yours. This is not a problem if you are changing the research field (different from what your undergraduate thesis focused on). All you have to do is make the professor realize the reason you have decided to change and the qualities you will be adding to their team.

Your recent publication on xxxxx caught my attention and I have since then conceived the idea of the possibility of using xxx (generate research ideas)

To make a standout student as the professors receive hundreds of such on daily basis, you need to by yourself generate a research question related to the professor’s field of interest. This is usually an addition or an improvement to an ongoing or already published research, hence you must have read about his previous and prospective works. It simply shows that you are intentional about it. 

Talk About Your Expertise

The professors are actually thrilled to have students who have experience in research, and time management and are very diligent. Do not panic that the equipment in his laboratory may be too sophisticated for you to operate because you are schooled in a developing country. Be confident in your skills and expertise.

Some students are scared of not having any research experience but that is not true. Your bachelor’s thesis, 2, 3 or 6 – month industrial training as well as your IT skills in Excel, Data Science, and Programing skills are enough to make you competitive for the role.

Volunteering experience also count here. Leadership experience as well as other relevant extracurricular activities that have equipped with the right skills to excel as a graduate school student.

Be Confident and End on a Positive Note

As an applicant, your cold email is a reflection of your skills and expertise. You should not be begging to be selected or the inability to finance yourself throughout your period of study.

You should be confident that your experience, skills and expertise will make you competitive enough to be selected by the professor.

I am confident that my technical skills in Nucleic Acid Manipulation Excel Programming and leadership experience…..

If our research interests align, I would be obliged to ……. 

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Common Mistakes To Avoid When Sending Emails

  • Avoid generic Emails – Do not send common emails to professors, they are boring and unenthusiastic. Also, you should not send the same email to 50 different professors daily. This does not give you the time to go through their individual research interests thoroughly. Generic emails do not et replies.
  • Be Optimistic and not Desperate – You should be positive and optimistic. You do not want to beg for the position or state that you have been applying for a long time and you should be considered because of so and so reason. Be confident in your skills and expertise.
  • Avoid Lengthy Emails – Lengthy emails are often disjointed, bulky, and boring. Keep your email brief, direct to the point, and concise. 1000 words are often too many for a professor who has hundreds of such emails to attend to daily. 400 – 500 words of four or five paragraphs are often sufficient and have worked wonders.
  • Be formal and Courteous – Once you’ve used a good subject line, you need to make sure that your opening doesn’t prevent your professor from reading the full message. You don’t want to say “Hey” and then go on with your message. That sets an unprofessional tone that can be a barrier to effective communication. You want to err on the side of courtesy. Write your message as politely and respectfully as you can, even if it means allowing some inaccuracy.
  • Review before Submission – Review your email as many times as possible before clicking the send button. Subject it to grammar checks and send to people to check for you. 

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