I would like to pursue a PhD. The professor I am interested in collaborating with states on their website that applications from students outside their university should be directed to the university's graduate school.

Yet the next deadline is far too late for me, and in any case I would have wanted contact this professor before applying to the graduate school to know if they take students and what kind of projects they have.

Should I contact the professor?

I was thinking about an email like this.

If yes, should I mention that I read the directive on the website and that I am contacting them to know if they take students and on what kind of projects?

  • What do you want to get out of that exchange? The deadline is probably not something (s)he can change. May 24, 2023 at 23:07
  • @MaartenBuis The following. If I was accepted, would you take students, read, me? On which sort of project?
    – Lilla
    May 24, 2023 at 23:09

2 Answers 2


It is both appropriate and good practice to contact potential advisors before you apply to any given program. What the university website probably means is that the formal application should be sent to their admissions department at the graduate school, which is usually a different office than undergrad admissions.

So go ahead an contact the potential advisor, and if you decide you'd like to join their group, then submit a formal application to the university.

  • It's the professor's, not university page. Does this change your answer?
    – Lilla
    May 24, 2023 at 22:33
  • I still think that this is talking about the formal application. However, depending on the wording, this could be a way of the prof. saying "don't bother me until you have been accepted, I don't want to hear from prospective students." In that case, it's not a good sign.
    – Cheery
    May 24, 2023 at 22:35

You can contact the professor to communicate interest in their lab and ask whether you could visit for an internship (if your own schedule permits this) or a virtual/in person lab visit to find out what kind of projects the members of the lab work on.

If an internship is possible, I think it would be the best option, because in that way both you and the professor will have the chance to test your interaction and communication, and you will spend your time until the next application round productive. And if everything runs smoothly and you apply to the school you will also have the strong accept from said professor while applying.

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