I am applying to US universities for Ph.D. so I wrote to some professors from X university. Actually, I wrote them at the beginning of this year but I was late for admission so I did not get any positive reply. But wrote them again last month and one of them replied asking if I have time (that week) to discuss my further goals with her. I replied saying I got time. After that, she did not reply. So after 3 weeks, I sent her a reminder email. She did not reply. At the beginning of this month, she again replied and asked if I have time for an interview. Again I said yes and we fixed a time. On that day, she wrote me she got some work to be done and again if I have time in the later week. I said yes. Again she didn't reply back.

What should I do now?

If I can manage a PI before I apply to this university, I will have a good chance of admission and they will waive my application fee.

3 Answers 3


Perhaps this isn't the best PI for you as they are likely very busy - perhaps too busy. But, in most fields in the US it isn't necessary to contact a professor before you apply for admission. And in most fields the professor you contact is not going to be able to have any influence over your admission as it is handled by a committee. There are a few exceptions. But perhaps the reason that they don't reply is that they don't have any say in admissions, not being on such a committee.

But most students arrive in a doctoral program without any PI in mind and have a chance, while taking advanced coursework to get a better sense of who would be best to work with. It also permits a more personal level of contact.

Likewise, in most fields, the first task of a new doctoral student is to prepare for comprehensive exams. Again, there are a few exceptions, but that is the reason for the advanced coursework when it is required.

It can be a bit different, and possibly compressed, for those with a masters. And it can be a bit different if a PI is required for (grant) funding.

And, while it may be frustrating, if deadlines aren't rapidly approaching, the person will likely be prioritizing other things. So, you may just need to keep trying.

And see the answer for the US to this question about how graduate admissions in the US works


They might have been busy. These days more than research they are busy with administrative works — which are unavailable. So ideally you could follow up after two or three weeks from first email.

With my experience I would suggest contact them as you contact other professionals and follow up to have an update. You have to wait until they reply. Meantime if you have friends or any known administrative at their office— you may follow up if professor is occupied.

However don’t put all the eggs in one basket. Meantime apply for all the potential opportunities.

Good luck with your application.


If you need to know and they have a phone number, I recommend calling people. Email overwhelms most professors inboxes, but these days many people never think to give someone a call. I have had much better luck with getting what I need sorted out on the phone. Skype or google phone credit is a cheap enough way to manage this internationally.

  • 5
    l strongly recommend against this. A busy person won't be pleased to be interrupted.
    – Buffy
    Nov 23, 2021 at 15:19
  • I have several colleagues who are busy professors in the US who have told me to call if they are not replying and I need an answer. I am also in the position of mentoring two research students, both of whom I encourage to call me. My current UK head of lab has a weekly phone call with me to avoid email tag. Most academics I know are weighed down the burden of filtering through email and are happy to take a call and sort it out on the spot. If this was after only a day or so maybe it would be seen as impatient, but they have failed to reply with plenty of time. I would call them.
    – The_Tams
    Nov 24, 2021 at 14:28
  • 2
    Calls from colleagues and others with an established relationship are fine. But until that relationship is established, interruptions will not be welcome. Emails can be handled whenever and ignored as well. Not phone calls. Again, I strongly recommend against assuming a call would be acceptable in this situation.
    – Buffy
    Nov 24, 2021 at 14:33
  • This isn't a cold call; they made an appointment with them already previously and haven't replied to email. It is interesting to me you seem to think calls can't be ignored. They can and ought to be if you are in a meeting etc. turn your phone off. I disagree with the primacy or politeness of email. I think more and more people are drowning in it and would rather a call if they are failing to keep up with their inbox. Clearly, Buffy's opinion shows some of us differ, but calling someone never used to be rude, and I many of us do not consider it rude now.
    – The_Tams
    Nov 24, 2021 at 14:39

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