Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Writing a Professor for Assistantship

Many of the applicants have this question in their mind: should they write to the Professors of the department they have applied to for assistantship? The answer to this question is not straightforward as it can be beneficial but also can backfire sometime. This is sometimes viewed as against the academic spirit.
The best idea thus, is to have zeroed in on the particular universities you want to apply according to your area of interest well before the application season may be six months before or so. After having done this you need to identify some professors who are working in the similar field. You can then write them about your area of interest and the work you have done so far in that particular area as research assistant or in some project or even in school assignments. You need to substantiate why do you like that particular area and why do you think that working with that professor will be good for you and what you can contribute to it. You may then ask him the question like… will it be a good idea to get a PhD from that university and like that. If you look serious enough about the topic and the professor is working in the same field he might offer you research assistantship directly under him. But that of course, requires solid background in that particular topic.
Considering the fact, it’s too late and nobody has time left for that now let’s move on to what an applicant shall write if he wants to do that now. That is a tricky question as noted earlier because some of the professors may take it as a negative thing. However, you can write to a professor but be professional in your mail. Tell him you want to work with him… you read such and such papers of him and this is something you liked and this is something you disagree to. Validate whatever you write to. Stress on your strengths and your ability to contribute. Be concise in your mail. If you write a long mail the professor may not even go through this as he obviously doesn’t have free time like you when you are waiting for the reply from the universities.
What if he doesn’t reply? Don’t shoot another mail. A professor gets tens of such mails every day and unless he sees some substance in the mail he is not going to reply you back. Sending another mail may irritate him and this may have a negative impact on your application.
But yes… surely write mails to the professors and the department chair if you have got admission but not the assistantship. Describe your situation to him that it would be difficult for you to continue your studies without funding and that you are really interested in the department because of such and such reasons. Again don’t bluff… browse through the website of the university and find out the information about the university so that you have something substantial to say about.

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