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How I got 333 replies back from professors

When I get asked about emailing professors, the most common question I get is – “Can you tell me something about the email format?”. While email format is very important, there are other important factors too. The professors will actually have to open your email to read it. And when they are getting 100s of emails in a day, you will have to add something extra to have their attention. Think of your email as a book. You have to attract your readers to pick up the book from the shelf to let them know whats inside. Now, if you have a very dull book cover, it does not really matter how good your content is, no one is going to take a look. So what is the “book cover” for your mail? The answer is – Subject. It is the first important factor for emailing professors.

So what are some other factors?

I have a friend, who waits for a whole week to post her profile picture on Facebook. On a Thursday night, she will post the picture and get 100s of likes. “Weekend starts on Friday. Everyone is so relaxed. All they do is watch TV and browse on their phones – perfect time to get likes” – she explained this to me. Well, I am not telling you to mail professors when they are relaxing. But you get the idea what I am pointing out here – timing.

If you mail a professor on weekends, you are expecting him to open the mail on Monday morning. So here is what happens when I open my mail on a Monday. I have around 10 emails about the production reporting from weekends, few advertising emails and then some important work emails. I quickly hover over the important emails and go back to weekly start-up meetings, my regular check-ups on the floor and completely forget about the emails. Monday – the first day of the week, I am still missing my chilled relaxing weekends, still trying to catch up with work. Now if you send me an email at this time, there is no way you will get a reply unless and until its absolutely important. I get around 10-20 emails on average on a Monday. A professor gets around 100s of emails. How do you expect him or her to open and read your mail when it is in the mailbox with 100 other emails. So when should you send email to professors? From Tuesday to Friday right after their lunchtime. Mostly lunch time is from noon to 1:00 PM. After that, a professor is usually relaxed, probably preparing for his or her evening class. If he or she gets an email at this time, he or she will open it and if likes your profile, there is a pretty good chance that you will get a reply back. Now his lunchtime is going to be your sleeping time. Are you ready to make that sacrifice?

I emailed around 550 professors and got 333 replies. I used to start emailing them at around 1:00 AM and go till 3:00 AM to 4:00 AM. Below is the format I used:

Subject – Research supervision on tribology
Dear Dr …,

My name is X. I have graduated with Bachelor of Science degree in  Y from …, Dhaka, Bangladesh. I have researched under professor … on …

I am contacting you because I am going to apply to … in the program of Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering for fall, 2015 in this week. And my research interest in graduate level is related to ……. The interest commenced when … From your website, I came to know that you are a prominent professor in this field. I am intrigued by your research projects and I would love to work under your supervision.  

Currently, I am serving as … I have taken GRE and scored a total of … and I have scored an overall band score of … in IELTS (Speaking ….., Listening…, Reading …, Writing …). I graduated having the CGPA of ….. on a scale of 4.00. My CV is attached.

Having given a chance to research under your supervision, I believe I will not let you down. 

Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I will be looking forward to your reply.

Best regards,



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