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How to Contact Professors for Graduate School Funding

A lot of students have asked me about how to contact professors for graduate school funding or graduate school scholarships, once they have submitted their scholarship. Some students are frustrated at having sent a ton of emails to professors, with no response. Having been on the other side, let me add that professors get hundreds of emails from students all over the globe, in addition to their daily workload. Professors are extremely busy, drafting research proposals, teaching classes, correcting homework and exams, supervising students etc. They are not very inclined to respond to most students from across the globe. The pressure to perform is even higher for those professors who have not obtained tenure yet. So, I am going to start off with other ways to contact professors if you have a year or so before applying:

  1. Start a research project in your field at your own university.

Get some relevant research experience in a relevant field where you are the lead. Publish a paper or two; present at a conference. This helps you expand your contacts and this can get you in touch with professors across the globe. So, while you are working on your research project, you can contact relevant professors in your university of interest; looking for collaboration opportunities or asking for some help. Make sure that your email is to the point, concise and displays all the necessary elements of your project. The professor is much more likely to respond, and you can develop a relationship with the professor; which may go a long way towards getting you funding at a top graduate school.

    2.Visit the Professor in person

Obviously, this is not an option for everyone. If you happen to study in the US for your Bachelors’, or are visiting the USA for vacation/business; stop by a professors’ office during his office hours. In most cases, a Professor’s office hours are listed on the school program’s website.

3. Call the Professor

If you call the professor during his office hours and he is impressed by your introduction or research background, he will pay more attention to your proposal.

Ok, so you are probably telling me at this point; “I don’t have the time or resources to do this. I’ve already applied for graduate school.” So, I would tell you to maximize your chances of a response by making sure you avoid the mistakes that many students all over the world make.

  • Do not mass email professors with the same template. Personalize your email to those professors that best fit your interest. Professors instantly delete any email that they feel is sent out to multiple professors.
  • Do not call the professor ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’. Make sure you use their name.
  • Make sure you clearly understand the professor’s research area and expertise before emailing him. It will be clear to the professor if you do not understand or have no interest in the research area.
  • Review enough literature in the field so that you can make a clear, abbreviated attempt at explaining how you and the professor can work together in the future.
  • If you are submitting a research proposal, make sure you submit evidence that the proposal is both realistic and considerate.
  • Do not make the email longer than a few paragraphs. Be brief and to the point.

And finally, if you end up getting an admit without funding; make sure you contact your seniors at the university regarding what your chances of getting a research/teaching fellowship are. If most students end up getting funded in their first one or two semesters there, then you are good to go. If not, you should look at alternate arrangements or alternate options.


p.s. Are you looking to study abroad but worried about funding? Get our free guide to applying for scholarships here?