I am planning to send emails to potential Ph.D. supervisors in my area of research at the start of September. I recently found out that most of my colleagues have already sent out these letters as early as July, and I am now worried that I waited too long. What are the negative consequences of a late email to a potential advisor? Is it possible they may have already committed to taking in another applicant by the time I have sent in my email?

Note: I am applying to Fall 2022 for a Ph.D. in Chemical engineering in the US. I am currently working as a research assistant in a lab in Asia, where I have been working since finishing my Masters Degree.

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    For what year? 2022?
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 21, 2021 at 20:05
  • 1
    Are you already admitted in a graduate program? We need a lot more details. Commented Aug 21, 2021 at 20:10
  • Sorry for that, I am applying to Fall 2022 for a PhD in Chemical engineering in the US. I am currently working as a research assistant in a lab in Asia, where I have been working since finishing my Masters. Commented Aug 21, 2021 at 20:16
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    Many departments are just getting ready now to prepare for the upcoming application season as I speak, as far as I am aware.
    – Daveguy
    Commented Aug 21, 2021 at 23:37

2 Answers 2


You are probably just in time now to apply to most US doctoral programs for Fall 2022.

But it isn't clear from your question whether you understand the process. In the US, the first contact is not normally with a dissertation advisor, but with an admissions committee. After admission you can start thinking about an advisor. The advisor, in most programs, doesn't admit you to the program and may or may not fund you. Departmental funding is very common.

Here is a (dated) description of the process in the US.

Advisors are normally chosen after comprehensive exams and by mutual consent. It also gives you a chance to meet and, perhaps, work with a potential advisor before approaching them.

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    Let me add perspective as an undergrad on why we contact potential PhD supervisors before admission. We usually make a list of advisors whose work aligns with our interests and email them expressing our interest. This is primarily to find out if they will actually be taking PhD students that year, find out more about their work and their lab environment. It would be a lot of resources wasted if we apply to the program and then find out that the advisor I am interested in working with is not taking students, or is not currently working in my research area (or turns out to be an a-hole).
    – justauser
    Commented Aug 22, 2021 at 4:13
  • Modern advice is to email a prospective advisor before applying in my area of STEM at least. Commented Aug 22, 2021 at 16:19
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    @AzorAhai-him-, for this OP, yes, since they have a masters. But not for someone with only a BS. The linked page includes that sort of information.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 22, 2021 at 16:23
  • @Buffy ? No I would absolutely tell an applicant with a bachelor's to email prospective advisors. Commented Aug 22, 2021 at 16:26
  • @AzorAhai-him-, and I would tell them to file a proper application and get back to me later if they are accepted. But I would spend zero effort at that moment in considering them as an advisee for research. There are too many things that must occur before it becomes feasible.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 22, 2021 at 16:28

Agree with @justauser.. However, do not commit yourself to a particular supervisor before you get there.. Get your admission, go there, study for a year, and then finalise your advisor(s) and your committee.. Also, it is your Ph.D. committee, so be bold and choose committee members who suit you -- No need to blindly follow your supervisor's suggestions on this.

Before I went to my uni, I badly wanted to work with Prof A... But after I attended that university for a few months, I realised that the temperament of Prof A did not suit me at all.. Thank God that I didn't commit myself to Prof A before I got there.

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