I'm currently about to enter my final semester of undergraduate life and plan on continuing graduate studies (master's) at the same institution.

Applications for the fall semester this year open in April. I recently (around a week ago) emailed a professor whose lab I want to enter and expressed my interest in his research and that if he would spare me a few minutes to meet in person or a phone call that would be great. I sent my resume as well. I had fairly high hopes because I have spoken to a former student in that lab and she happened to say he has a very nice reputation of communicating well and will reply to my email even if it's a rejection.

However, he hasn't. I'm wondering what I should do. I've confided with my parents who are also professors, and they told me that once semester starts next week to just visit the professor's office during his office hours. My question is, wouldn't showing up unannounced and bringing up the topic of my email come off as a bit rude? My parents say that professors get paid to deal with students and so I should think of it as my right, and also that "office hours" are meant for professors to keep their doors open and answer questions. I'm curious as to what other people believe, though.

It was either visit his office, email him again, call the student lab via phone and ask them what I should do.

Thank you.


I just thought I'd share the result of taking @Buffy and others' advice in case anyone's curious.

I was planning on visiting the professor in question's office today. I was planning to just visit, but yesterday I decided to send one last email out of courtesy saying that I'd love to visit his office during his scheduled office hours. If that didn't work then I would just show up "unannounced." He did reply to that and asked if tomorrow is okay.

I sent him my resume with the first email, but I wasn't sure if he had read it or not so I decided to print it out and bring a hard copy with me. Plus, I myself always prefer having a hard copy in my hands to flip through rather than looking at a computer screen. Sure enough, when I asked him if he would like a copy of my resume he said that it would be great and that "students normally send them by email but I prefer hard copies" and that likes my sense of preparation.

He was impressed at me taking the initiative and offered me an undergraduate research position on the spot - despite them lacking openings - and showed me around the lab introducing me to everyone and advising a PhD student who shares interests with me to give me a more in-depth explanation. He said that if I do decide to pursue graduate studies ("since people change their minds all the time" as he added) that it would be better if I naturally transitioned from an undergraduate research intern to a full time graduate student at the lab.

So yes, lesson learned. Also thanks for the advice from the community.

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    and also that "office hours" are meant for professors to keep their doors open and answer questions --- I'm surprised this is a question. It's like asking if it's allright to enter a library during operating hours. As someone who has taught several years at smaller and more teaching-focused colleges, "office hours" took on the meaning of "I'm guaranteed to be there", as opposed to most other hours of the day when "I'm usually there and available, if I'm not in class". Even during non-office hours, I often left a note on the door saying I'd be back soon if I had to run a quick errand. Feb 27, 2019 at 7:11
  • Nice question with follow-up. Sometimes I set aside emails because I want to write a thought-out answer. And then I forget.
    – PatrickT
    Sep 19, 2020 at 22:56

2 Answers 2


I'm with your parents on this. Go talk to him. The missed reply could be for a variety of reasons, including just needing time to think about it. But scheduled office hours are a perfect time for a conversation.

It isn't rude at all. Polite, actually, to go in person.

  • Thanks for the answer! Come to think of it I guess it is more polite that way, and there really isn't anything for the professor to be offended about if I walked into his office.
    – Sean
    Feb 27, 2019 at 3:14
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    Adding to this: during a recent interview round, one candidate stopped by our group leader's office unannounced to hand in her application in person. She was hired for multiple reasons and the initiative she showed was certainly one of them. Feb 27, 2019 at 8:08

I agree with Buffy, there are a number of factors that could account for the lack of communication. For example, the chair of my master's thesis committee would conducted research in rural Central America and be unreachable for months during winter/summer break. Simply due to the overall lack of internet service. That said, office hours are the perfect venue for introducing yourself and discussing your ambition to pursue graduate study.

While others may disagree I would wait at least a few weeks. In my experience most professors are inundated with student request during the first 1-2 weeks of the semester, but this is obviously situational.

  • Yes, you're right and I remember one of my professors took two months to get back to me. He apologized and said that grading hundreds of exams while trying to publish a paper has been excruciatingly stressful. The problem is, though, that I wanted to make sure I get my name across because I wanted to do a research internship which may naturally let me get the lab experience and transition into graduate studies. You do have a point, though.
    – Sean
    Feb 27, 2019 at 3:17

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