New Admission – How NOT To Apply To College? Graduate School? Research Group?

As chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and as an active researcher, I often receive inquiries from students who would like to come to NDSU. Some are interested in our undergraduate B.S. degree. Some students are interested in our M.S. and Ph.D. programs. And often I get inquiries from recent Ph.D. graduates looking to join my research group as a postdoctoral fellow. I am always astonished that people who are seeking higher education experiences have no clue how to properly inquire about opportunities. Case in point – I recently received the following email:

It is not surprising that this email was relegated to my junk mail box. Nothing in this email would encourage me to consider this serious at all or even inspire a reply. However, I suspect this is a real student searching for some kind of opportunity. Let’s take a look at everything that is wrong here.

To: undisclosed-recipients:;

This sure makes me feel special and they are passionate about joining our program. Seriously – is this message sent to; (a) every faculty in the department? (b) every faculty at NDSU? (c) all universities in the US? (d) 7 billion people on the planet?


No capitalization? No salutation to anyone in particular?

Are You accepting New Admission..?

Well, there are some capitalized letters, but I’m not sure they realize where they belong. Doesn’t bode well for someone looking for an advanced degree. Further, they say nothing about themselves, what they are looking for, or even what degree they are seeking. Are they wanting to join our B.S. program? Or perhaps they are looking for a Ph.D.


Capitalization is lost again, but at least they are polite. Other than a cryptic name in the email address, there is no name on the email. I have no idea who I am receiving this from.

This email deserves no response as it contains no information and no indication someone is serious about coming to NDSU. However, I am tempted to reply with a simple message:

no – LOL

Note to potential students: Whenever you inquire about opportunities for anything in life you should do so with the utmost professionalism. First impressions mean everything. A proper email would have been individually addressed to a real person – me as the department chair, for example. Proper English, capitalization and punctuation matters in correspondence, even if it is a simple question. Some information about yourself and what you are seeking helps personalize you to the receiver. And, don’t forget to state what it is you are seeking information about. I can’t answer this email because I have no idea what degree or what level the writer is asking about. Finally, a conclusion with name and contact information is always a good thing.

2 Responses

  1. Stuart Haring

    This is spot on Greg. Although this is a somewhat extreme example of lack of effort or professionalism, emails like this appear to be more and more common, with less and less demonstration of care and effort. I especially love (sarcasm) form letters where it is clear that name, university, department, and research area are “insert here” blanks where the person has actually copied/pasted with no attention to the fact that it is bolded, in a different font, and sometimes underlined to denote that this is what they did. Yikes! Your insight above extends even further, including for job applications, letters of support, and really, just about any communication where you want/need to be taken seriously. I know there is a blog on The Chronicle of Higher Education website for ‘funny’ student emails to professors, and I would bet there is also a blog we could contribute to by adding position/admission request emails we receive that are similar to the one you displayed above…if not, we could start one.

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