How to contact a potential advisor!

Is it alright to email a professor out of the blue?

Of course!  Making connections with people you’d like to work with is a natural part of the professional development process. Take time to learn about the professor you are contacting.  If you can write fluidly about shared research interests, a conversation will likely follow! Before sitting down to write, here are a few helpful hints:

  Greet your contact respectfully and by his/her proper title.  End with a thank you, and avoid informal “text” language at all costs. This person is not your friend, he/she is a potential future colleague.


Purpose!  Inform your contact of the purpose of your email. Do you want to learn more about a laboratory or an academic department? Do you want to know if he/she is accepting graduate students? Give your contact a specific question that can be answered with ease.

Read up!  Read several papers produced by your contact and his/her lab. Demonstrate your understanding of their work, and how it relates to your own.

Brevity!  Professors don’t have all day to read emails. Keep it short and sweet!

Proofread! Triple-check your spelling and grammar!

Ready to give it a shot?  


PDF download: How to contact a potential advisor