I've received this email after contacting a potential PhD supervisor:

"Thank you for your email and interest in our research. Your experiences are certainly well-aligned with the work we do. We are not specifically seeking students at this time, but your background is perfectly aligned, so we should discuss options!

The very first step for connecting with the department is to discuss with Professor XXX and then we should set up a zoom."

But I don't know what do I have to discuss with this professor (he is the director of the program), I've contacted other potential advisors before and no one told me to contact the program director before, so I don't know what do I have to tell him. I am not from the US and I am not familiar with most of these procedures, so I don't know if you have any idea what they expect me to say to him in that email.

  • I am not sure if the supervisor is expecting you to contact the Program Director, or is going to talk to them. Does anyone else have a view on that?
    – The_Tams
    Commented Oct 20, 2022 at 10:54
  • @The_Tams I was wondering the same thing. From the phrasing of the email, it could also mean that they internally have to discuss it with the professor and only then will bring OP in.
    – Sursula
    Commented Oct 20, 2022 at 11:03

1 Answer 1


I think since it isn't entirely clear, I would forward the email exchange to the Program Director, introduce yourself, and give a summary of your conversation (which they can see in full in the email).

It sort of seems like since the potential PhD supervisor doesn't have the resources for a student at the moment, you have to go through the "official channel" (i.e. email the head of the program) so that maybe they could make some sort of arrangement if you were to apply and be accepted.

  • This sounds like good advice. The OP should note that every university in the US and maybe every research group will have its own procedures. We don't have standardization on such things. The "top person" is probably the one with control of resources. Also note that graduate admissions is normally handled by a committee, not by individual supervisors (some exceptions, though).
    – Buffy
    Commented Oct 20, 2022 at 13:19

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