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I have accepted an offer for a CS PhD at a US university. Unlike most other schools to which I applied, this university does not require that incoming students immediately start working for a professor of interest (POI). We receive a university scholarship the first year, and can take our time to decide.

My question is: when should I start contacting POIs*? I have someone in mind already and we met on visit day, but maybe my mind will change over the summer. Should I wait to meet her again? Wait until I move to the new city and start taking classes? Read a dozen more of her papers first? If I wait, do I run the risk of her going with another student—assuming she has limited resources and spots available?

*In this case, a "POI" is not necessarily a final advisor, just someone I would like to work with during the first year. I suppose in the ideal case, we get along very well and just keep working together.

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    What's a POI in this context? Can you edit your question to expand this acronym at its first use? – Bill Barth Apr 25 '16 at 20:00
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    Done. Let me know if you need more clarification. – gwg Apr 25 '16 at 20:15
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    Short answer: six months ago. – JeffE Apr 26 '16 at 1:32
  • @JeffE, already did. This question is about the next step. – gwg Apr 26 '16 at 12:10
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The matter of when to meet or talk to your POI is definitely subjective, but in my personal opinion there's no harm in keeping in touch, if you expect to have a relationship with this professor in the future. I think that creating a dialogue with this faculty and discussing potential research projects as an incoming student rather than a prospective student places you in a very different position, and is better than blindly looking at her papers, etc. If nothing else, she may be able to guide you to other faculty as she learns more about you and your interest, and doesn't see a good fit.

Of course, none of this is concrete, but from my experience it was useful to informally keep in touch with POIs across the board and see where I would head in the future, both academically and at jobs.

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