Does Contacting a Professor Help with Admissions?

I get this question all time and there is no blanket “yes” or “no”’answer. Different schools have different relationships with their faculty. Most professors have little impact on the decisions that the admissions office may make. They are teachers, and trust that their administrative colleagues in the admission office will admit and yield the best students for the university who may ultimately end up in one of their classrooms.

However, I do encourage students who have a particular academic interest to reach out to someone -- usually a professor -- in an academic office of interest. Why? Because that professor may offer greater insight into what their department does in terms of research, internships, and course offerings. Building a rapport with someone who has inside knowledge of an academic department leads to deeper understanding of the major, which helps with asserting how much of a match a student may be for the academic program. What is learned can be shared in an informed essay which, of course, very important to possibly being admitted.

If your child wants to reach out to a professor, here are three necessary steps.

Identify the right department. Do not allow your child to reach out to just “‘somebody”. Make sure there is genuine interest, on your child's part, and that they contact the person in the department who is designated to answer questions.  

Write a short introductory email. This is not guaranteed to get to the admissions office. Again, the goal is to gather information. An email that states the student’s name, high school, college or career academic interest and thoughtful question that cannot be answered from the website, is the best way to pique a professor's interest and usher a path to finding what is being sought.

Follow up with the admissions representative for your high school. In another email to the admissions officer who will most likely read your application, name-drop the professor and expound upon what has been learned since corresponding. It's critical to show initiative and demonstrate interest. This email should also include the student’s name, high school and college or career academic interest.

Seeking out a professor to enrich knowledge about a school is great. Wasting a professor’s time hoping that they will speak to the admissions office on your behalf, is not a good idea.


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