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I contacted a potential advisor for a PhD program. He replied to me that he was not in a position to accept any PhD students at this time. But he also wrote to me:

"I'd also be happy to chat about the program and my work generally if helpful, but would realistically have to be in mid-January. Let me know if of interest."

I am not sure what and how should I reply to him. I am interested in having a talk with him, but what should I ask?

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He wants to know more about your background preparation and your research interests. He likely also wants to get a sense of how you would fit into his research program.

However, he may also just be interested in grad students generally and wants to think about whether some other prof would be good to work with you if he can't.

I expect that the chat will be entirely informal and give you a chance to look around the department and maybe meet a few people. I once asked a prof if he would be my advisor and he declined, but suggested another, who turned out to be a much better match. I don't think he actually introduced us (long time ago - poor memory) but think he just suggested I approach the other (more senior) prof.

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  • Thank you for your reply. Would it be better to go to visit her or just have a chat through phone? Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 16:03
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    If at all possible, make it in person. You want to start to build a relationship there.
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 16:08
  • @Zhubenwuxin: I would only suggest going in person if you will be in the area anyway. If he says he is not accepting PhD students, I think it's relatively unlikely that anything directly beneficial (admission offer, etc) will come of this conversation. It would be worth having by phone, Skype, etc, but I don't think it would be worth the expense of traveling any significant distance. Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 20:12
  • If the professor is not interested in taking you now or in the future (if I get your post right), then what is the point? I had bad experience before with similar offer to just chat. It was an ideas phishing trap that affected me negatively. I would never do it again. I will always be careful. Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 18:10

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