I am hoping to continue my masters in machine learning or data mining. So as a part of the process I am mailing to professors. I have a decent GPA and GRE score. I have research experience in these fields but no publication. I am not an extraordinary student but a motivated one. If any professor see my profile they may find it very ordinary. How can I ensure him that I will do my best. I know that knowing the research works of the professors will help you to get a professor's attention. Is it natural to grasp his research work completely? Though the track might be same, but the level of research is more deep than my previous experience. Is there any way to show him I am worthy?

I am not sure whether this type of question is appropriate for this forum. But hope that someone will enlighten me.

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    I don't feel its inappropriate. From a CS view, I think it would be interesting if you described a specific research topic you're interested in. If you can sell even an idea to a professor (as opposed to actually implementing said idea), it shows you understand what you're talking about and didn't just read his website or past works.
    – Compass
    Oct 14, 2014 at 20:12
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    What professors are you emailing (in the department you've applied to? Potential thesis advisors? Potential research assistant job-givers?) and what is your relationship to them (haven't applied yet? Applied but not yet admitted? Admitted but not yet enrolled? Enrolled, but never met this professor? Current or former student in professor's course?) and what do you hope to gain by emailing them?
    – ff524
    Oct 14, 2014 at 20:25
  • I am emailing to potential thesis advisors and I have to ask them for research assistantship. I haven't still applied. Professors are very busy and they take few students. I thought early contact might help my chances. Oct 15, 2014 at 2:25
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    Read a recent paper (e.g., one authored by the professor you are planning to contact or one that is otherwise very closely related to their research interests). Then do a little bit of actual research. Think about the paper. Try to find something interesting and non-trivial that you can say or do about it. If unsuccessful, think harder and/or read another paper. Once successful, write the email and tell about what you have discovered. In general, give a concrete proof that you have got both interest and skills to work in the field. Oct 15, 2014 at 3:27
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    If any professor see my profile they may find it very ordinary. How can I ensure him that I will do my best. — I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but by far the most effective way to impress potential advisors is to have an impressive application. Motivation is not enough. We need to see evidence that your motivation leads to good results.
    – JeffE
    Oct 15, 2014 at 11:43

3 Answers 3


Another way to get the attention of the professor is a recommendation email or phone call from your bachelor advisor. This shows you're so worthy for your advisor that he takes time to recommend you.

Note: In case the professor does not already know you, it might be somewhat hard to get his/her attention just by mail as they receive a number of such mails every day.


To summarize some other advice, attend weekly departmental seminars and ask questions (during or after) the presentation. These meetings are designed to inspire, and you need not be an official student to attend.

Professors really like what they do, and it is flattering when students ask honest questions about their research. Taking the initiative to attend another department's seminar and being inquisitive will raise your status from ordinary student to extraordinary student. Finally, befriending a faculty is a huge step towards acceptance into any graduate department.

  • In does not make sense. OP is clearly stating that the contact is by mail (as in most cases). He might even not be in the same continent. This surely work within own faculty but if you're planning to move there's no way this can help. Jul 22, 2015 at 21:00

When applying to graduate school, I read two recent papers of every professor I wanted to work with. Of course, I only picked professors that were interesting to me. Then, I read those two papers thoroughly (which, in itself requires some explanation; basically, produce a one page precis containing a summary, the weak points, and possible extensions) and emailed the professors with questions on it, both clarification and analytical.

If you want to grab a professor's attention, show him that you're a student who is thinking along similar lines, who is competent, and will require little energy to motivate and train. The demonstration of a synergistic relationship is important. Ultimately, that's not only what professors should want out of students, but what students should want out of the professor. Entering into an advisor-advisee relationship is a serious commitment and personality clashes make that difficult.

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