As you move through your undergraduate years and into graduate school, you will have increasing contact with graduate students and faculty in your discipline. Knowing how to interact with them can be helpful as you begin to negotiate a larger sphere with future colleagues and mentors. Building strong relationships begins with your initial interactions with busy faculty members and graduate students. As you begin to apply to graduate school, please keep the following suggestions in mind:
- Try visiting with faculty members during office hours first, unless they are available by appointment only. Otherwise, an e-mail will allow faculty members to respond when they have time.
- Do not wait until the latter part of the fall term to speak with your professors about your graduate school goals. Get to know them early. Then ask them if they would be willing to write a strong letter of support for you.
- Give each recommender at least a month's notice before the recommendation deadline.
- Follow up with the recommender after you've learned your admission decisions. Faculty are always interested in learning whether, and to which programs, you were admitted.
- Please, have the courtesy to respond to telephone calls or e-mail messages. Once you are accepted into a particular program, there is usually a considerable effort coordinated to recruit you. Ignoring faculty is just plain rude and may send a message that you do not intend. Keep in mind that these individuals will be your colleagues one day.
- Have the courage to tell faculty or other program representatives directly that you will not be attending their program. Of course, it is not always easy to admit that you have decided to accept another school's offer. Keep in mind that it happens all the time, so be honest, and others will truly understand.
- Be sure to thank all faculty, graduate students, and staff who have assisted you. You would be surprised to learn how instrumental they have been, and how they may feel slighted because a simple "thank you" was not offered.