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I am currently in the process of applying to graduate school in the US. Earlier this year at a professional conference, I met a research scientist in one of my top choice university labs who told me I should "reach out when I'm applying" and gave me his card, to which I followed up later that day telling him I would be in touch.

A couple of months ago, I reached out to the professor who is head of the lab asking if he was taking student, who told me I should apply and we can talk further after being accepted.

I would like to follow up on the offer of the scientist and ask for some advice on my application now that I'm applying, but I'm not sure what is considered too much to ask him for. Ideally, I'd like for him just to look at my SOP and tell me if he thinks my goals are clear and align well with the group. It's worth noting that the university isn't too far from where I am, so I could potentially offer to meet him for lunch or something of that nature.

However, if he ends up discussing it with the professor, I don't want the professor to think that now I'm going around pestering members of his group after we spoke and trying to push my way in, so I think it would be important to somehow remind the scientist that he told me I should get in touch and that's my motivation for contacting him.

My question is: is there a way I can accomplish this without anyone being insulted or annoyed? Is this asking too much of his offer? Should I forget about it and look for my advice elsewhere?

  • They said get in touch. Get in touch. They will let you know what they can or cannot tell you. – Morgan Rodgers Nov 27 '19 at 7:14
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Is there a way I can accomplish this without anyone being insulted or annoyed?

Of course, especially since the research scientist explicitly asked you to get in touch. Some people will be annoyed by contact no matter what, but the invitation to contact them seems to indicate this will not be the case. Be polite, professional, and brief in your initial email.

I don't want the professor to think that now I'm going around pestering members of his group after we spoke and trying to push my way in, so I think it would be important to somehow remind the scientist that he told me I should get in touch and that's my motivation for contacting him.

The first line of your email should indicate exactly this sentiment. Perhaps you could write that you are following up after meeting at X event, for example. Alternatively, you could reply to the earlier email that you sent, which would convey that more explicitly, though I do not think it is necessary.

Is this asking too much of his offer?

Asking them to read your SoP is perhaps asking too much, but perhaps not. I received help on my SoP for applications from multiple professors, but I only ever sent it to those who asked for it explicitly. Conveying your goals in a short email will probably suffice if you would like general advice, but I would avoid asking for direct editing help.

You could mention your close geographical proximity in your email if you think that it would be more helpful to have this conversation in person during office hours, for example.

Should I forget about it and look for my advice elsewhere?

There is no reason why you should not pursue this avenue of advice and others that you feel may be beneficial as well.

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