I recently contacted a potential PhD supervisor expressing my interest in working with him. I attached all application materials (personal statement, CV, etc), as he requested on his website. I received a prompt reply that he is accepting graduate students for the upcoming semester and to let him know if I have any questions. How should I follow up with him, and what sort of questions are appropriate to ask at this stage? I submitted my formal application to the program soon after receiving his reply.

  • It sounds like you've made it past the "scanning my email to discard junk" phase, which is a great first step. Perhaps a more direct approach this time asking something to the effect of: "given our similar research interests, would you be interested in being my advisor?"
    – Andnp
    Dec 5, 2017 at 1:42
  • 8
    Not all PhD supervisors can be tall. Dec 5, 2017 at 6:00
  • Just to check: does the graduate department's website suggest contacting supervisors? i.e. is your application going to be evaluated by the department, or by the individual supervisor? In a department where students are only admitted to one PI's group, you need to talk with them most of all, but in departments where students get admitted at the department level, PIs may be less interested in talking with you until after you're already admitted.
    – AJK
    Dec 5, 2017 at 6:53

2 Answers 2


Ask for a phone/skype call to discuss research interests, and to see if the two of you would be a good fit.

Hi Prof X., Would you be available for a phone/skype call next week to discuss research projects and to see if I would be a good fit to be your advisee? Thank you!

  • @KTK - I like Austin's idea. Have you looked at some of this person's papers, and maybe a description of his current research interests? Use this reading to prepare some conversation-starter questions for your phone conference. Dec 5, 2017 at 5:06

As suggested by @Austin Henley, take a personal approach (phone/Skype is best). PIs want people who are passionate and who fit well. Plus, a bit of ego stroking never hurts. The candidate who takes initiative to call/Skype demonstrates interest and initiative, and a little bit of ego-stroking that can pay dividends. At that point, you become a person, not a piece of paper.

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