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I have emailed a professor and received a reply email from him. He replied generically " please apply".

Should I apply for a PhD program under his supervision?

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    What country is this for?
    – Buffy
    Commented May 13 at 19:57
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    We don't know anything about your situation, not even what you emailed them. How do you expect us to give valuable answer? Do you want to apply to them? Why isn't their statement to apply to them sufficient for you? Commented May 14 at 11:26
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    I was just on the other side of this situation. I got (from my point of view) a generic email asking to do a PhD with me. So I informed the student that one needs to apply to the program, not to an individual professor, and said if they had questions to contact our grad director.
    – Kimball
    Commented May 14 at 13:34
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    The mail has 2 words, only (and uniquely) saying you should apply. Your question is if you should apply? I would say that is the only question you have an answer for! Commented May 14 at 13:44
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    Professor no longer worries about the social dynamics in the situation. If their email bothers you, it is no loss from their perspective. Whereas for those lower on the social hierarchy, e.g. a student, they may be more worried about how their email makes one feel. Professor doesn't worry so much about feelings because they have little time to.
    – jdods
    Commented May 15 at 17:02

1 Answer 1

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The professor probably gets a lot of email, including a lot of messages exactly like yours. It's painful to reply to them all thoughtfully.

Many PhD programs work by application to the program rather than a specific advisor. If this is one of those, then basically unless you're in the program you don't have a chance to join their lab. Some professors may sway admissions by letting them know a particular candidate is interesting to them, but that's more likely when you have some other connection. With just a blind email they have no reason to prefer you over any one else that applies successfully. So, if you want to attend that university and have a chance to work with that professor, apply to that program.

If not, then don't. Personally, I'd advise strongly against applying to a program only to work with one specific person unless you already have a relationship or you are in a system where you are required to apply through a specific advisor. So many bad stories from students on this website happen when they've come to work with just one person and no one else at the institution is capable of supervising them when something goes wrong.

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    +1, though this is of course specific to certain countries. Commented May 14 at 6:29
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    Yes. Also don't meet your hero! You are going to be so disappointed. Commented May 14 at 11:44
  • @StephanKolassa Agreed, though I think the professor's response implies an application process that does not go through that professor directly.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented May 14 at 19:48
  • I emailed a professor I wanted to work with when applying to a program (that admits to program rather than advisor) asking if he was going to be taking on advisees, etc. in the coming year. He replied: "I'll be around." Many years later as a professor myself, I get it!
    – commscho
    Commented May 16 at 14:16

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