22 October 2014
Should you reply to spamming students?
I know the kinds of letters this person is asking about. Many show the candidate has extremely limited ability to express him or herself in written English, the tone is often obsequious, and the letters are often clearly “form” letters sent to who knows how many institutions.
What’s the right course of action? On the one hand, there is an actual person on the other end. A person who has probably gotten bad advice, but still. On the other hand, it can take up a huge block of time to reply to all of these.
If someone sends you a cut and paste inquiry, it’s okay a cut and paste response. Signs of a cut and paste from a student include the opening, “Dear Sir / Madame,” or discussing research interests that are nowhere near the kind of stuff you do.
Only if someone has clearly written a personalized inquiry to you, that shows they understand what you do, should you spend the time to write a personal response.
I don’t have an endless stream of these letters - and I am the grad program coordinator - so I do reply. I send links to our entry requirements and program FAQ, and answer any direct questions in the letter.