I am specifically applying to computer science PhD programs in the US. I have read the other posts similar to this, but I have some specific questions.
1) When is the best time to email professors I would like to work with to maximize my chance of admission to programs for Fall 2020? I've seen lots of disagreeing advice. One post said that it was best to reach out right after application deadlines so the professor will remember your email. This is what I have been planning to follow.
2) If my contact with the professor goes well, is there a risk I could be "locked in" or risk damaging my relationship with them? Say I reached out this week, if they said I would be a good fit would I be expected to reply now? Or could I wait until I hear from other schools in February/March?
3) How do I balance these concerns of maximizing my chance of admission and being "locked in"?
**I only plan to email professors that have specifically mentioned on there web page that they wish to be directly contacted by potential PhD students. Any other advice is welcome.