How to send a cold email to a professor

How to send a cold email to a professor

Can you send a cold email to a professor? Getting a supervisor for your graduate studies is extremely important, especially for Research programs. However, only a few people consider this when applying for graduate school. The absence of this step in the overall application process usually leads to unsuccessful application and in cases where the application is successful, there is no funding attached.

Considering the cost of education, especially for studies abroad, the unavailability of funding may hinder the applicant’s ability to study. This article discusses the steps to get a potential supervisor which will contribute significantly to your admission decision and getting full funding.

Steps to follow in sending a cold email to a professor

Follow the steps below to send attention-grabbing cold emails to your potential supervisors.

  • Compile a list of potential supervisors

Search for schools that offer your program of study and visit their faculty page to get professors with similar research interests as yours. Avoid adjunct and emeriti faculty since they usually don’t have funded projects. Save the web pages of your potential supervisors on Google Docs or any preferred location.

  • Research on each professor

Visit the web pages on your compiled list and get the publications of each professor. Focus on the recent 5 publications and download at least 3 of them since they are likely to be researching in the same direction. Read the publications and understand how to replicate the research in detail provided you are given what you need. Focus on the conclusions and recommendations of each publication since they are likely to be investigated in future studies. You can also visit the professor’s webpage for their lab or research group to get information on ongoing projects.

  • Send an email to the professor

The last step is to draft the email, read it, correct errors, and send it. Draft a short, concise and specific email to each professor. Be straightforward and avoid long emails when sending them to professors since they do not have enough time due to their tight schedules. Always maintain a formal and respectful tone. Use a good and catchy subject, like, “Prospective Research Student”. Always start with Dear followed by the Professors Last name or Full name. Example, “Dear Prof. Simons” or “Dear Prof. Jake Simons”.

The email should be at most 3 to 4 paragraphs. Indicate your background in terms of academic and professional qualifications that make you fit for the research team in the first paragraph. Talk about the professor’s publications you have read and contributions you can make to improve upon his research and further areas that can be investigated in the second paragraph. Express your gratitude to the professor for his time to read your email, and how happy you will be to work with him. Let him know your willingness to provide further information he may need to check your suitability for his research team. All these must be in the third paragraph. Always attach a CV to your email. You may also attach transcripts especially if you have good grades.


Wait for 1 to 2 weeks for response after sending the cold email. Send a follow up email if you don’t get a response in the stated time.  Don’t send an email to that professor again if you don’t get response after 3 to 4 follow-up emails, he may not be interested to work with you or he is too busy to respond. Good luck in your graduate school endeavors.

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