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I am a final year undergrad and applied for graduate programs in various universities for Fall'16 admission. I recently got an admission offer from one of the programs. The admissions chair cc'd the offer email to potential supervisors I mentioned in my application. Here's the email from one of these potential supervisors.

Dear xxx,

just to follow on Dr. xxx's invitation to xxx University: I was very impressed with your record and ambition, and would be very interested in having you join my group. I am looking for very motivated and strong students at the moment. I have been working on various aspects of xxx, with my students and postdocs at xxx University, and in collaboration with colleagues in xxx University and xxx University.

You can read about my recent research at my webpage: xxx or check some of my papers on the google scholar: xxx

Please let me know if you have any questions about living and studying here in xxx. I think we have a very lively and a friendly department, in spectacular surroundings.

Very best from xxx.

This is my first admission offer, so I'm waiting for offers or rejections from other places. So, I'm not really sure how to respond. And even if I did want to work under his supervision, what questions do I ask to begin with? I'm totally lost.

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    Well, the potential supervisor explicitly mentions "Please let me know if you have any questions about living and studying here in xxx"...just email him/her if you have any such questions. If you are waiting for offers/rejections, I think a polite reply stating the same would be alright. If you are excited to work with him/her because of reasons X,Y,Z, just mention them in the email. In any case, it is highly likely that the potential supervisor understands your position (of waiting for all offers). – cutculus Feb 9 '16 at 13:56
  • Yeah, I think being honest is the way to go here. Is the fact that the supervisor emailed me mean that I am a very strong candidate, or do supervisors quite commonly email applicants in graduate admissions? – user22613 Feb 9 '16 at 14:04
  • I do not know anything, but the email reads enthusiastic. Only you know, however, whether this reflects the strength of your submission.... – Captain Emacs Feb 9 '16 at 14:34
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    Professors tend to be very busy. I doubt that someone would go out of her/his way to express interest in you joining their group if that interest was not genuine. Think about the worst case scenario from the professor's perspective: if I contact this person even though I'm not interested and that person accepts, now I have to supervise a student I'm not that keen on (= lots more work!) – z_dood Feb 9 '16 at 14:49
  • @varun you really should add your comment as an answer. It's spot on. – Ric Feb 9 '16 at 16:19
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Well, the potential supervisor explicitly mentions "Please let me know if you have any questions about living and studying here in xxx"...just email him/her if you have any such questions. If you are waiting for offers/rejections, I think a polite reply stating the same would be alright.

If you are excited to work with him/her because of reasons X,Y,Z, just mention them in the email. In any case, it is highly likely that the potential supervisor understands your position (of waiting for all offers).

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Note particularly "joining our group" and "check publications at http://research-group.umiskatonic.edu". Before answering do at least skim the publications shown there.

Be clear that you appreciate their prompt response (first one you got!), and that you are still waiting to hear from other options before deciding where to apply. They will know that you are going to apply to several positions, you aren't telling any secret there.

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Buy time.

  • Thank the potential supervisor for the email
  • Let her know that you are reading about her research and that you are impressed by what you have read so far
  • Ask open questions about living arrangements such as "What aspects of the living arrangements there support the focus on research? What aspects are detrimental?"

Do not tell her or anyone there that you are waiting on other offers.

If you get other offers then choose the best one and thank the others

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