To Perspective PhD Student

3 minute read


To Perspective PhD Students

Must Read Before You Contact Me

I receive numerous emails every year from candidates who are interested in applying to our PhD program at CUHK. There are rumors that suggest contacting professors before formally submitting the application could increase the likelihood of being admitted. While this may work in some cases, it doesn’t apply to our school. In certain instances, the letters are written poorly, which can reduce the chances of being accepted. To avoid confusion and bridge the information gap, I have compiled some facts and common “mistakes” below. All applicants are encouraged to read them, although they may only be relevant to the PhD in Communication program at CUHK.

  • Admission to our PhD program is managed by an admission committee. The committee members are responsible for evaluating your application materials and selecting candidates for further interviews. The interviews will most likely be conducted via Zoom. You don’t need to contact any professors before applying. Once you are formally admitted, you will be able to select your supervisor. It is not necessary to contact professors in advance, as the selection process is carefully designed to ensure fairness and impartiality.

  • Our school does not accept undergraduate students or taught master (usually 1 year) students directly into our PhD program. If you don’t have a MPhil degree (or other research master’s degrees), you can only apply to our MPhil program.

  • It’s important to note your professor’s title when addressing them. If you’re unsure of their title, it’s appropriate to address them as “professor.” For a more formal approach, use “Dr. XXX.” Avoid using “Mr. Liang” or “Associate Professor Liang,” as these may come across as impolite despite being accurate. For instance, I once received an email addressed to “Dear Associate Professor/Dr. LIANG, Hai,” which included a slash and comma before my first name. Such a greeting is not recommended.

  • I have dozens of publications, and I never expected someone else to read all of them. So, I picked my favorite ones and listed them online: If you want to show that our research interests overlap, it would be much better if the articles mentioned in your letter were from the list. I received letters mentioning my co-authored articles (like I am the third or fourth author) or articles that I think are less important, which may lead me to think the applicants didn’t read my articles or have very bad taste.

  • Be concrete about your research interests and ideas. It is not meaningful to say you’re interested in computational social science or social media analytics. It would help if you could show me more concrete examples of what you will research, e.g., theories, phenomena, and methods (it is equally terrible to say “using NLP/SNS”). I expected a concrete research design (don’t send me your proposal because we’re required not to comment on your proposals). Nevertheless, this is not the worst. I received some letters that mentioned the areas that I had never known.

  • Updating…