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TIPS ABOUT FORMATTING PRE-APP COMMUNICATION

Important considerations are brevity, sincerity and truthfulness. Be concise. Include important information you want to highlight but nothing more. Eliminate everything that is (a) not strictly relevant at pre-app time, and (b) can be included in an attachment to be perused at the profs convenience. Include a very brief (preferably bulletized) text resume in the mail (not as attachment) after the main body of the mail. Leave at least 5-6 blank lines between the last line of your mail and the start of the resume, so that it is clearly indicated as an inline attachment. A smart thing to do is to prepare a basic but professional looking web page or site and include the URL before (avoid making a flashy web page with lots of graphics, gaudy colors, personal information, favorite quotes or pictures). PDF and WORD attachment are not appropriate in the first email, but are an alternative only if you do not have a Web page. Example of a web page: http://lsdis.cs.uga.edu/~meena/ (if you have done significant project with research content or done anything that shows your research interest, make sure that information is easily accessible). Note that having a resume from a web page/site is more preferred than attaching it in an email. Some faculty do not like attachments, and many still use old mail clients requiring them to save a file and bring up an application. Preferred formats are html, pdf and ms-word in that order. Example of things to avoid on your web page and resume are basic abilities that are academically or research-wise not important (e..g., to program in VBscript, use outdated DBMSs, ability to use Windows or Linux, Microsoft certification or Cisco certification.

A TEMPLATE FOR THE BODY OF THE MAIL


1st paragraph: Introduce yourself concisely in 2-3 sentences. Include whatever information you want to highlight. "Dear Professor Smith, I will be graduating in June 2005 with a Bachelors degree in Computer Science from the Birla Inst of Technology and Science, Pilani, India. I have a cumulative GPA of 9.55/10.00, I am 2nd in my graduating class and my GRE scores are: V (800), Q (800), Essay (5.5). If you are working, modify accordingly. For instance, I graduated from with a gpa of . I am currently working as a design engineer in the xxx group at Intel corp 2nd paragraph: State why you are contacting that prof. It will help if you can talk about something specific of interest in his recent publications even better if you can quote from a recent publication and tie it to your undergrad projects or work experience. Look at the conclusions and future work section of his recent publications (and in case of more senior professors, funded research project pages, invited talks, interviews, or vision statements) to see what kind of work might be in the offing. While the last section of a paper does not mean that the work will actually happen (!), it is a good indication of future research directions and a valuable guide to the big picture of interest to the professor. Your proposed area of interest need not be a direct extension of a class project you have done.

3rd paragraph: Talk about your application to grad school. Dont ask for money; but you can hint at it. For example, I intend to apply for a PhD in Computer Science at UIUC in Fall 2006. I am interested in the general area of programming models and software architectures for distributed computing. I am specifically interested in projects similar to your XYZ project, where I believe my background will be relevant and useful. I will appreciate it if you could look at my resume at <URL> (or inline and pdf attachment) and let me know if it is of interest. I can provide more details about my work as required. 4th paragraph: Conclude. I look forward to hearing from you.

ITEMS OF INTEREST NOT DIRECTLY RELATED OR LIMITED TO PRE-APP


COMMUNICATION

It is better not to write to the professor if you have not seen his/her Web site (assuming there is one: in most cases you can Google their name and if they are established, their web site would usually come up on the first page). Also, consider going to http://scholar.google.com, go to advanced search and type the name of the professor in the author field. Then write to a professor only if you have a legitimate (and preferably demonstrable) interest in the area of his/her expertise. For example, it does not help to write to a professor in Graphics if your interest is in Internet. Do not forget the most exciting opportunities might be in multi-disciplinary arease.g., bioinformatics, computational biology, quantum computing, nanotechnology, (rather than well established basic areas). Additional suggested reading: http://www.cs.umbc.edu/~joshi/prosp.html http://lsdis.cs.uga.edu/about/index.php?page=8 http://www.cs.ubc.ca/~rap/gradappfaq.html http://www.cs.purdue.edu/homes/dec/essay.phd.html http://sunset.usc.edu/~mehta/phd.html http://www.cs.fit.edu/~pkc/dept/assistantship-faq.html http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~harchol/gradschooltalk.pdf (but do not take ranking all that seriously, instead, notice the last three sentences. I would also add this: if you cannot find a professor, evidence of funded research project preferably by a federal source such as NSF, NIH, DARPA, NIST, ARDA, etc - or a research lab/center at a department even if it is ranked highly, then perhaps you should look at other departments.