contacting profs...a do or don't?

<p>so, i'm wondering if others on this board could chime in on this...i'm a little worried that i might have screwed this up. some PhD programs in poli sci i applied to said not to contact their profs, because they get several hundred applicants for 10-15 slots. this made sense to me, so i didn't pursue it (every PhD program i'm applying to has ridiculous numbers like this). however, i'm reading a lot of people saying contacting profs is absolutely crucial in admissions...but i think a lot of these are related to more pure-science disciplines, where lab spots are limited, as opposed to social sciences (like poli sci) where it isn't quite the same. what did other social science folks do regarding contacting profs prior to being admitted?</p>

<p>I'm only applying for MA programs, but I did try to reach professors to discuss the suitability of the program to my interests (and the suitability of my background to the program.) I found that most of the people I spoke with were quite helpful and willing to speak, or at least e-mail, with me. I would think it shows that you're really diligent and thorough in trying to choose the right program, and I'd expect it might help professors get a positive impression of you, assuming you come across as knowledgeable and professional.</p>

<p>I don't know if my $0.02 really is all that relevant, as I'm not applying for PhD programs and I haven't gotten responses to my apps back, but there ya go.</p>

<p>For history there seems to be a lot of contact. I've spoken to several profs, and I know others who have, also. My advisor also recommended it.</p>

<p>Yes; I would go ahead and contact them. You're applying to polsci programmes aren't you? When I spoke with a careers advisor, they suggested at least dropping an email so when your name pops up in committe, one person will know who you are (or thereabouts what you're doing). They are always willing to respond, even if it's just a case of, "Yes, I'd consider being on your degree panel should you be admitted". Most are very helpful though. One of my referees was having trouble sending his letter, and the proffessor said it would be ok to send it to the department via fax and gave me the number.</p>

<p>well...i guess part of the question is, how do i go about it now? i mean, i've read their research, know what they do (very similar to what i want to study), and have read up enough about their departments to know they are particularly good in my area of interest - so its not an issue of "is your dept. a good fit for me?" i've done enough homework to figure that one out. so, what could i even say? i like your research, here's what i want to do, if i am accepted, would you be willing to meet w/ me in the spring at some point to chat?</p>

<p>I think something like that would be alright. However, last year I was in the same position as you for polisci and I did contact profs. Most of them were nice and I did eventually meet with all of them during the admit weekends. However, I don't get the impression that it helped me that much to get in. I think ultimately it is your record and contacting them doesn't really get you any upper hand.</p>

<p>fp06: If that's the case perhaps a phone call would be better, that way you could really show you know what you're talking about. I'm not sure going into depth about their work in an email would come off that well. Maybe just indicate that you've read some of their publications and are interested in discussing things further.</p>

<p>If the programs specifically say not to contact professors, then you shouldn't contact professors.</p>

<p>Personally, I'm skeptical about the actual utility of contacting professors in most situations. Unless you have a really meaningful email conversation, I doubt it's going to help at all.</p>

<p>thanks for the thoughts, all...yeah, i don't really think contacting a prof should make a difference in admissions (your record is what matters), but maybe it'll ensure they look over your application so long as it makes it to the final rounds. i'm thinking i might just do a casual email, hi, i'm a prospective student, i really like your research on X, i'm interested in Y, if admitted, i'd really like to meet w/ you in the spring. does this sound alright?</p>

<p>I have a bio degree and currently work as a research associate in cognitive science, but I am applying to political science programs.
I have had some great mentors in my current poli sci department where I take classes (a top 20 inst.), which have helped me understand the differences in the application process.
In biology or psychology, you MUST contact profs because they ultimately accept you to work in their lab and fund you. However, I have been told that it is not like that in poli sci.
So, what I did...I applied to 9 schools total, and only contacted the profs I wanted to work with at about half. I only sent an email or spoke on the phone if I had a real question and not to just get my name on their radar (a few places I had real concerns about whether I would be able to do the kind of cross discliplinary research I'm interested in, etc). At half of the schools, I had no real questions.
So, my bottom line is that you should only contact a prof if you have a real question that determines if you will apply or not (in my case) or something of the like.

<p>see, that's the thing...on the one hand, i'd love to conversate w/ some of these profs (in a pure academic, non-ass-kissing way) about some of their work, but as far as advice, etc. goes, there's really not much they can tell me that i didn't know about their respective departments.</p>