How to e-mail a potential graduate adviser

It's always tough to know how to approach anyone when you're looking for a job. And the academic field somehow sounds especially tough.

One science professor -- who's less than warm and fuzzy -- gives some advice in the Chronicle of Higher Education about how to approach a potential graduate adviser through e-mail.

I've condensed her tips to make things easy.

The key thing to remember: Your first e-mail to a potential graduate adviser should be professional and short.

Before you keep reading ...

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What to include:

  • Name of your undergrad institution

  • Major and minor fields

  • Graduation date

  • Relevant research experience

  • Field of interest for grad study

  • Whether you're interested in just a master's, a master's and possibly a PhD, or definitely a PhD

  • A request to meet -- such as at a conference -- if you're really serious about working with the adviser. Just understand that he or she may not have time.

  • Requests for specific, relevant information you can't get any other way

What not to include:

  • Questions of money (tuition, benefits, salary for a research assistantship)

  • Information about your personal circumstances (spouses, significant others, etc.)

  • Your full CV (though you could always include a link to one)

  • A statement informing the adviser that you'll be meeting. (That's presumptuous.)

  • A request for the adviser's cell phone number

  • A Facebook friend request

  • Vague requests for more information

  • Anything that makes your note look like a mass e-mail

One last tip:

Find out who the adviser's current and recent grad students are and ask them about their experience with that professor.