Points to keep in mind before sending an e-mail
I get a LOT of e-mail from prospective graduate students. It is
nice that so many people are interested in studying here. What follows is
a list of things to consider BEFORE sending an e-mail to me (or anyone
else, for that matter).
Keep in mind the following points:
- I will definitely NOT evaluate your resume/GRE/TOEFL scores
to tell you if you are qualified to be a student in our department.
If you want to know, submit your application like everyone else.
- The person you are e-mailing is probably very busy. Even if I
spend an hour a day, every day, reading/answering e-mail, there
still is not enough time to write a thoughtful response to each one.
If you keep your e-mail short and to the point, you are more likely
to receive a response.
- Why are you writing? What do you hope to get in a reply? The
recipient should not have to guess.
- Do not use slang and abbreviations. "How r u?" may be appropriate
for chat-rooms, but not if you want to be taken seriously.
- Please use the Web to answer your questions, if possible.
- Get the recipient's name right! I've had all kinds of variations
on my name used by people who I don't know. People have mis-spelled
my name, or confused my first and last names.
- If you really want me to answer your question, address the e-mail
to me. If I see that your e-mail is addressed to "Dear professor,"
it sounds to me like you've e-mailed everyone in my department.
Why should I have to answer an e-mail that you've probably received
a response to already?
- Yes, I consider it rude when I receive e-mail that was sent to
everyone in the department. We do talk to other faculty members!
One of the first times I got such an e-mail, I discussed it with another
faculty member, only to find out that he received the same e-mail.
The e-mail sender said to both of us, "I am interested specifically
in your research". That cannot possibly be true, since we had
completely different research areas.
- Do not include your resume as a .doc attachment. If you send me
an attachment, I have to go through extra steps to read it. It
also tells me that you assume that I'm on a PC with Microsoft
Windows, as if this is the only type of OS. I run Linux on my PC.
It is much easier just to delete the e-mail.
- Do not say you are interested in my research, then go on to say
that you want to work on my operating systems (or algorithms, or
This tells me that you either do not know what I do, or
do not understand it.
- Get the person's title correct.
Some teachers at a university go by "Professor", some by "Dr.",
and some by "Mr.", "Mrs." or "Ms." If you get it wrong, the
person will assume that you don't know the difference between
the titles, or that you don't care. He or she may even be
offended. By the way, "doctor" is the Latin word for "teacher".
It is a term of respect given to people who have completed a
doctorate degree, and one of the few perks of spending 8+ years
- Do not assume that I have funding to hire a graduate assistant.
Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.
- Some people try to make a good impression by touting their
skills in webpage design, using word-processing software, or
I assume that everyone applying for a CS graduate program is
already proficient in these things. Actually, I assume that
any second-year undergraduate student is proficient with these
things. If you are bragging about these skills, it gives me
the impression that you don't know what CS research is all about.
- On a related topic, "computer skills" do not equate with "CS skills".
Above all, if you are sending an e-mail to faculty member you don't know, be
sure it is professional, short, and specific (and that it is really
necessary). I think all faculty members
are nice people who want to be helpful, but who are also very pressed for
Ultimately, acceptance into graduate school is done by people examining
your file. I have NEVER heard of someone being accepted into a program
because of an e-mail that he/she sent.
Computer Science departments like mine are blessed with many, many, good
applicants every semester. We can only handle so many students at a time.
If you apply, but do not get in, remember that not every deserving student
is accepted. Keep a positive attitude.
Here is a related page on
written primarily for undergraduate students.