I am in the process of applying to PhD positions in educational sciences in the US and UK. However, I have come across two distinct recommendations regarding what to include in my email when contacting potential supervisors. Some mention that only a CV is enough, while others mentions attaching SoPs (or even proposals in the case of UK universities). I am having a problem deciding which is the best route. How should I proceed?

A related question is that in my field, PhD admissions and funding are usually decided by search committees/admissions panels. So is it better to maybe contact the program director instead of a potential supervisor?

  • 1
    I think the procedures are different enough that one size doesn't fit all. US and UK might require different approaches.
    – Buffy
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 14:52
  • Well, what are you contacting them for? Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 15:01
  • @Buffy What about the US specifically as you are there. Do you have any thoughts on this issue?
    – DIanon
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 15:11
  • @AzorAhai-him- I want to know whether they are accepting new PhD students for the next year and maybe set up a Skype meeting with them if they are interested. In some educational departments, having an advisor on your side may be beneficial based on my research (although I wonder if contacting the department head/program director could also have its own merits). Moreover, I do not want to blindly apply to different universities due to the costs.
    – DIanon
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 15:15

1 Answer 1


In the US (maybe elsewhere) it depends on the circumstances. If it is a blind email, make it short and sweet asking only if they are likely to take on students, giving a very short statement of your interests and offer to provide whatever additional information they would like to see. If you flood them, you are likely to get trash canned.

If they have put out a call or otherwise indicated they are seeking candidates you can say more. Their "call" probably indicates what to include, but a short CV (indicating it is abridged) and a short statement of purpose, keyed to their interest would be fine.

But, in the US, in most fields, it isn't necessary to have an advisor "lined up" for admissions. It is preferable to do so after you have a bit of first hand experience with them. If you only hold a BA/BS then there is plenty of time to get a dissertation advisor, since the early work is mostly courses.

  • 1
    Short - that! For cold contact, keep it abstract length; they should be able to read in one glance. I do read CVs, but this is not typical. +1 Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 15:56
  • 1
    @CaptainEmacs, one short paragraph. Three sentences. Something like that. But make me want to ping you back if you look good.
    – Buffy
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 16:03
  • I guess you mean something like that: "Proved Riemann hypothesis using homotopy theory and conformal transformations. Fermat follows almost trivially after simple identification of categorical structures, might have implication for string theory. Seek PhD position in your group." :-P Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 17:51
  • @CaptainEmacs, yep. I think that would be plenty. Four Color Theorem is a corollary.
    – Buffy
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 18:04
  • I think combinatorial theorems are not compressible, so this would make me suspicious. ;-) Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 19:27

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