"Faculty member sponsor". What does that mean? PhD edition.
November 11, 2017 11:11 AM   Subscribe

What does it mean to have a faculty member sponsor during the PhD application process? I haven't come across that language before, but one school says they require two of them, and that it's appropriate to contact potential sponsors.

Here's the exact language they use:

The department requires that two faculty members sponsor an applicant before admission is recommended. Prospective sponsors are canvassed by the Departmental Admissions Committee, but it is also appropriate for applicants to contact potential sponsors.

Does that mean I should be emailing faculty I'd be working with to have them sponsor my application even before I submit one? Would appreciate if anyone had any insight, because I really don't want to cold email a faculty member only to have them be annoyed at me for doing so. Thanks!
posted by lilies.lilies to Education (10 answers total)
In my case, it pretty much meant that I was going into that person’s lab. I wasn’t so much admitted to a school or department as to that specific person’s lab.
posted by rockindata at 11:33 AM on November 11, 2017

Best answer: Yes. They want to see that you have identified specific faculty members in the department whose interests align with yours and that you want to work with, and that they in turn would like to work with you.
posted by btfreek at 11:33 AM on November 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Yes, when applying for PhD applications it is common for applicants to contact faculty members beforehand. This sets up relationships for advising/dissertation committee members and also gives applicants people who will champion you for recruitment fellowships.
posted by shesbookish at 11:35 AM on November 11, 2017

Best answer: It sounds to me like two faculty members in the department must support, or put forward, the applicant for admission. Like rockindata says, one these two faculty would presumably then be the main advisor if the applicant accepts the admission offer.

You should research their faculty very carefully and make contact with two to three of them who best suit your research interests at that school. If you make a good impression, that faculty member could then sponsor your application.

Best case scenario, the faculty members will also let you know if they are not taking students this cycle for whatever reason so that you can concentrate on corresponding with the others.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:37 AM on November 11, 2017

Response by poster: Wow, okay. Thanks all. I'll definitely have to work myself up to writing those emails. There are two faculty in particular that I would like to work with, so I'm not starting with nothing, but I have a lot of nerves about it.
posted by lilies.lilies at 11:51 AM on November 11, 2017

Best answer: I'm a professor, and I love getting emails like this. We are just people like you. Some of us are even on metafilter! Go for it! :) Good luck.
posted by sockermom at 11:53 AM on November 11, 2017 [14 favorites]

Also it may mean that those people will fund you through their grants. You should dig more to see how graduate students are funded.
posted by k8t at 1:49 PM on November 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You can be partly reassured by the fact that they are expecting to hear from applicants and it part of their system.

Here's a link with an idea of a format for the email. You can search around for more examples or advice to put together an email that best suits your circumstances.
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:56 PM on November 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh also in my doctoral program this was also required. What it means in practice is that when the faculty sit down to discuss applicants, someone at the table has to say "I want this student here and I am committed to working with them." It depends on your field but being committed to working with a student could mean anything from "I'll advise them" to "they'll be funded by my grant."
posted by sockermom at 3:42 PM on November 11, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your input. I emailed two faculty members this afternoon and will hopefully hear back from them soon. I didn't see your link in time, Squeak Attack, but mine look like an abbreviated form of the second example. I talked about my previous research, who I've worked with, and what about their research made me think we would be a good fit. It's easy to do because both of these faculty member's work showed up in my undergraduate thesis. Again, thanks!
posted by lilies.lilies at 5:51 PM on November 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

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