Wow. A lot has already been put up this month about CVs, resumes, and application packages. To reduce the chance of redundancy, I’ll add a couple final tips about writing up one’s application, mainly, finding a contact at prospective schools.
This tip is probably more important for master’s students looking to move on to a PhD program elsewhere, but getting in contact with potential schools is always a good idea. Websites give limited information about a program; so by contacting a professor, you can get better information about what kind of research is available, opportunities, funding, etc. before you submit the application. Even if the professor you contacted doesn’t have the research you’re looking for, that person can direct you to a better contact.
In this day and age where we can meet anyone online, it can still be scary to contact a professor you’ve never met or contact a professor at all. Just remember this: most of the time, professors love to go on and on about their research. A prospective student asking about research? Really? :D I’ve had trouble getting a professor to take a breath so I can ask a question. You’re not burdening the professor by contacting him/her. If the professor doesn’t reply, don’t take it personally. Chances are, the professor is in the midst of writing a proposal, can’t think about anything else, and your email got buried. I’m speaking from personal experience here. If this happens, try another professor in the department.
Other than finding out more about a prospective program, finding a contact can also help with application process. A few emails with a professor shows that you are an interested candidate. The contact can also give you pointers on how to better tailor you application. Professors want good students and they don’t want the application to be a barrier to getting good students.
If you’re still nervous about contacting a professor at IU, the emissaries are here to help. It’s part of our job description to act as initial contacts for prospective students. While we may not be students in the field you’re looking for, we can help you find that contact professor.
Well, good luck and happy submitting!