The Graduate School Interview: Writing a Letter of Thank You
After the graduate school recruitment weekends and interviews, the program graduate admissions committee will meet with the faculty members and graduate students you had interviews with to determine if it should make you an offer of admission. So far you have looked the part of the graduate student, done your research and asked insightful questions to both faculty members and current graduate students and have responded wonderfully to the interviewers’ questions. The only thing left is to seal the deal and leave no doubt in the interviewers’ minds that you are a perfect fit with that program. In order to do this final step, you need to write a thank you letter approximately 1-2 days (as soon as possible) after the recruitment weekend.
Key points to include in your letter are:
1) open your letter by saying that you appreciate that he/she took the time out of his/her busy schedule to meet with you
2) mention ( at least a paragraph) of what the two (or more) of you discussed
3) be sure to state that you are excited and enthusiastic about his/her research and becoming a graduate student at that particular program
4) state key points that align you with the program’s major focus
5) include any further questions that you might have, especially about his/her research
6) close by writing that you look forward to the committee’s and that specific faculty’s (or graduate student’s) response
Two example letters are listed below. Notice how the student mentions similar points in both letters but caters what he/she specifically talked, like research focus, about at the interview in his/her letter. Also, the student includes accolades that he/she is about to receive from a very prestigious summer internship.
Dear [blank: could be Dr. or Mr., Ms.],
I just wanted to thank you for meeting with me on the [recruitment date] for the [program’s recruitment weekend]. It was such a joy for me to discuss your research with Burkholderia cepacia. I find your research to be particularly fascinating, inspirational and just really cool. I am especially interested by the fact that there is a heightened prevalence of B. cepacia in patients with cystic fibrosis. I am especially intrigued by the fact that B. cepacia is able to grow at a pH of 6, which is similar to the pH found in cystic fibrosis patients’ lungs. There was one question I had that I was not able to get to during our visit. I was wondering if you were accepting new graduate students into your laboratory. Your research really combines my two greatest loves in microbiology—pathogenesis and genetics. I really would like to be a part of your lab and study the environmental cues necessary for the function of B. cepacia’s two-component signal transduction system.
I would also like to inform you that I have been chosen as the McNair scholar of the year and will be presented with a plaque on [date]. It was truly unexpected and I feel very honored and humbled by it.
Again, I would like to thank you for meeting with me during the recruitment weekend. It was such a pleasure for me to discuss your research project. I have such a genuinely good feeling about the [list program] and I hope the program has a good feeling about me too. I look forward to your reply and the [graduate program] committee’s decision.
[include e-mail so that faculty’s response is more convenient.]
Dear [include title and name],
I just wanted to thank you for inviting me to the [recruitment date] recruitment weekend. It was such a joy for me to meet with the [specific program] faculty, staff and graduate students. I particularly enjoyed our talk about the [specific program] program and what the courses and rotations entail. The [name of institution] truly has a unique program, which incorporates and emphasizes the connections between [disciplines in program]. I believe that the [name of program] program offers students research independence that really enhances their own creativity. Furthermore, the diverse fields of study allow students to feel comfortable discussing, studying and later teaching a wide array of scientific fields. This is also reflected by the [name of program] faculty. Numerous faculty members have a primary and secondary focus to their research.
I am especially excited that the [name of program] program allows for students to work on collaborative projects between different tracks. Also, it was fascinating for me to see the laboratories in [specific building]. I am especially intrigued by the no door separation policy that the [name of program] program has initiated. It really creates an openness that fosters partnerships and comradery between laboratories, which in my opinion is the purest spirit of science.
I enjoyed all of the interviews with the faculty. I really can see myself working with all of them and if I am selected for the [name of program] program, it certainly will be a difficult decision to choose only three rotations. I am extremely interested in Dr. [fill in name] and Dr. [fill in name] research and hope to discuss the science behind it more in depth with them via e-mail. I am also excited at the prospect of conducting a joint project between Dr. [fill in name] and Dr. [fill in name] laboratories. In my interview with Dr. [fill in name], he/she mentioned that this would be an excellent option since I am interested in both bacterial pathogenesis as well as immunology.
I remember from our very first meeting two years ago (as a part of the McNair program, we went on numerous graduate visits and I really wanted to view your department) that I was extremely impressed by the [name of specific program] program. This most recent visit added to my awe and fascination of all the research and classes that are ongoing at the [name of specific program] program. I also am interested in your research with integrins and tumor formation. From our last meeting, I understand that you were in the process of developing a mouse model. I was wondering if you would discuss your research more in depth with me; it really is extremely exciting and interesting.
I would also like to inform you that I have been chosen as the McNair scholar of the year and will be presented with a plaque on [specific date]. It was truly unexpected and I feel very honored and humbled by it.
Again, I would like to thank you for inviting me to the [name of specific program] program recruitment weekend. It was such a pleasure for me to discuss various research projects with the faculty. I have such a genuinely good feeling about the [name of specific program] program and I hope the program has a good feeling about me too. I look forward to your reply and the [graduate program] committee’s decision.