Professor X says on his page that to apply for a PhD position, one should send (unspecified) application documents to his secretary.

After 7 days of doing so I have received no answer. The professor's email is publicly available on his group's website. I am about to write a follow up email, to the secretary, repeating my interest and asking if I need to provide additional documents. Do you think it is not welcome that I CC the professor?

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    7 days isn't long, People can be travelling and may have all kinds of other things to do. I'd give them three weeks minimum. In the middle of summer maybe more. Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 20:41
  • @ChristianHennig I am in a situation where I wish to have an answer soon, and I just want to eliminate the possibility that it is the secretary that is on holiday for whatever number of weeks... Do you think it is inappropriate to write the follow up email, and put the professor in cc ?
    – Lilla
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 20:51
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    I think it won't hurt much if you try, however it may not help either. Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 20:57
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    Where in the world are you? In the US, it is the middle of summer. Many faculty disappear over the summer. Moreover, in the US, it is very late to be applying for positions which start in the fall of this year, and a bit early to start putting out feelers which will lead to applications to for programs which start next fall. Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 21:21
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    Just FYI on how business English has evolved over the years--many people would now be offended at the use of the word "secretary". It's more likely to be replaced with words like coordinator, administrator, assistant, etc. "Secretary" evokes memories that people feel are laced with misogyny. As an administrator (in the US though), I get so much email, I can only respond to about 1/3 in a day. If I haven't responded within a week, I am definitely not going to find your email later. Following up is part of administrative life. Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 21:32

1 Answer 1


Seven days is nothing. Give it at least another week and then follow up with a polite e-mail to both the professor and the secretary. Re-attach your materials, put yourself in the Bcc so you can be sure that the e-mail arrives.

Make sure that the e-mail sounds like "I want to make sure that you got my application materials since I didn't hear from you yet so I am resending it in case something went wrong on my end and I am very interested in your lab and look forward to hearing from you" and not like "why didn't you reply yet it's been 7 days".

Professors get a lot of the later follow up e-mails and they don't help.

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