The first impression you make is extremely important. Here are some tips for drafting your first e-mail to a faculty member:
It starts with the Subject line. Some professors receive upward of 100 emails per week. Unfortunately, this overflow can result in oversight. Make sure to write a clear subject line. Here are some strong examples: “Sophomore Seeking Research Opportunity,” “Meeting About Your Research,” “Undergraduate Student Interested in Summer Experience.” Be clear and concise. This is literally the first impression.
Use your university e-mail. Your old AOL email is not going to help you get noticed. Stick with a professional email when reaching out; your .edu is a safe choice and lends you credibility. An email consisting of your name is acceptable as well. Your note may be lost to spam otherwise.
Titles matter. Professors have earned various degrees during their time in higher ed. Achieving the status of Doctor is a big deal. Start your email with “Dear Dr. ______” or “Hello Dr. ______” Don’t refer to professors by first name until it is clear that they would like you to do so. Sometimes this is made clear in their sign off in the reply, or sometimes they will tell you in person.
Congratulations! After merely 10 words you’ve already made a strong impression.
Talk about their research. Faculty do what they do because they love it. Bring up their research in your note. Mention specific details that show that you’ve done background research on their work. The relevant publications section on a professor's ScholarBridge page is a great place to start.
Talk about your interests. If you’re going to commit to spending your time outside of the classroom doing research, you must have a genuine interest in the project. Talk about what specifically draws you to this professor and their research. Can you already think of a potential, unique contribution that you could make to the project? Do you have any skills that make you a particularly qualified applicant?
Offer meeting times. The goal of the first note should be to set up an in-person meeting to talk research. Don’t go back and forth via e-mail unnecessarily. Explicitly mention times that you are available to meet. Offer many options as faculty are busy people with packed calendars.
Contact through ScholarBridge. If you are using ScholarBridge to track down opportunities, you can use the contact function on the site. Professors on ScholarBridge will know that you are looking for an opportunity and that you are serious. Furthermore, e-mails from ScholarBridge include your ScholarCard as an attachment. This is very helpful for professors learning about your background and qualifications.
Good luck Bridgers and happy researching!
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