I am applying for a PhD position in a UK university (in humanities/social science) which is, to put it mildly, the most fascinating project I have seen in a long time. I believe I am highly suitable and I am preparing my application.

Interestingly, it is clearly stated on the University's website that prospective students are strongly advised to make informal contact with the supervising professor, prior to the application. So, I sent professor an e-mail 3 weeks ago, but there was an automatic reply that she would start to reply to e-mails when the autumn term begins, which was last week.

The deadline for the application is late October. So, should I send a kind reminder before my application and if yes, how would you think it would be the most appropriate way?

Thanks :)

  • 1
    Sometimes professors have secretaries, look around at the department website. If you reach out to them, you might get additional information like the prof is stuck at a Antarctic research facility or have to spend two more month in hospital,
    – usr1234567
    Oct 14, 2022 at 10:08
  • Well I understand that she might be very busy and that contacting her secretary might be a good idea but it is clearly stated on the application details that it is strongly recommended to contact the professor herself, probably for more information about the project.. What troubles me the most is that application deadline is on the 30th of October and I was planning to send the application next week. Anyway, I re-sent my initial e-mail and hopefully she will reply. If she doesn't until Tuesday I will probably contact the department.
    – p.t.
    Oct 14, 2022 at 12:22

1 Answer 1


(Major update)

Yes, after three weeks and with the term having started, it is fine to contact her again. Don't think of it as a "reminder" though, lest you imply she failed in some way. Send (almost) the same mail again, perhaps.

If you get an auto reply once more, then contact the department with a request to pass on your message. Good luck.

  • Although the professor is probably up to only early July in catching up on the backlog. Or just deleted the entire inbox when they got back...
    – Jon Custer
    Oct 13, 2022 at 19:51
  • @JonCuster "deleted the entire inbox when they got back" people do that?
    – justhalf
    Oct 14, 2022 at 6:26
  • 2
    @justhalf I know of companies that impose this on all employees when they go on vacation, even automating it. It is actually a very good idea to do this. Most of the emails that pile up are irrelevant anyway as soon as the employee comes back.
    – arne
    Oct 14, 2022 at 6:55
  • 3
    @arne I understand moving them to a different folder, or doing a quick triage (which shouldn't take more than two hours, unless your email client is slow), but deleting them outright? What if there's important stuff there? People don't usually send emails just to waste other people's time. (If there's an auto-reply saying that this is the policy, I understand this more.)
    – wizzwizz4
    Oct 14, 2022 at 9:08
  • 3
    Email should never be autodeleted. It's an asynchronous medium so it's entirely up to you how you handle it. People should know they are not to expect an answer when someone's on vacation. In any case I'd find it horrendous to come back from vacation or illness only to not be able to catch up, because there is no paper trail. Oct 14, 2022 at 10:24

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