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I'm an undergraduate student planning to apply for Ph.D. programs in the humanities field this admissions cycle (Fall 2016). I've been contacting a few professors I'd be interested in working with at certain programs. One of the professors at a school that is one of my top choices said that she is on leave for this academic year (Fall 2016-Spring 2017), so she will not be part of admissions, but would be taking in new grad students in the academic year after that, when I would (hopefully) be a first-year grad student. Her research interests are a really good match with my current interests, so I was hoping to have her as my adviser if I got accepted to that school.

Is it alright for an applicant to refer to a professor that they'd like to work with in the personal statement even when that professor is not on-campus for the admissions process? Should I apply anyways and assume that if I'm a strong enough candidate, they'll accept even when my desired adviser will not be on-campus for the admissions committee?

  • Hello there! Can you tell us which country are you in, please? Also, have you asked her about it? As she may know better what are the odds there. – yo' Aug 28 '16 at 19:59
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    I'm in the United States. She is currently out of town, but did say she wanted to talk after she gets back in a month or so. Of course, I will talk to her personally about whether or not she thinks it would be alright to apply, but wondering if anyone had any personal insight, so I can start thinking about my application before then. – Misty Aug 29 '16 at 6:28
  • Make sure she's just actually coming back. Occasionally, when someone goes "on leave," they're really trying out a job at another university. – user2379888 Aug 29 '16 at 14:45
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Yes, certainly. Academic leaves are normally for a semester or a year. Faculty may or may not be on the admissions committee the semester they are on leave (they normally aren't if they have an ounce of sense and want to take full advantage of their leave) but they usually still participate in a shadow sense.

For example, when I've been on research leave, my colleagues on admissions forward me the dossiers of people that they know might interest me. If I know a candidate is applying, I might also proactively flag them to the admissions chair.

This way, I can ensure that when I get back from leave, I have a fresh student to work with.


Now, the trickier question is the year before scheduled leaves. Many faculty won't take a student the year before a leave as the student would arrive without an advisor. Others will ask a colleague to serve as temporary advisor for a year if they really want a particular student.

The only way you can know is to ask the faculty member in question if they are taking students.

You asked, she said that she's taking students, so you are all set. As to how to prepare for the oral interview, that's a separate question.


As to the comment that "leaves" are a sign that a faculty is leaving, this is bogus. At most of the institutions I've worked at, when you take a leave, you have to "pay back" the leave by working at least the same amount of time as your leave (one year leave is at least one additional year of work at the old institution). Often, the new university will pay the old university for the leave time, but this is a sore point in negotiations. It's much more common for a faculty member to negotiate leave at the new university.

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