Quite often, questions like this recent one are posted, all with the same tenor:

I was in contact with a professor/supervisor/etc. about a position/PhD program/masters program/etc. , and they seemed to think I am a good fit. After initial contact I sent them a follow up email to which they did not reply (yet). It has been XX days since I wrote the email (sometimes as little as 3 days if I remember correctly), should I write a follow up email/call/etc.?"

I think there must have been 10 or so questions like this within the last few months.

So the question is: as this seems to be a common issue, should we make a canonical question about the etiquette and strategies when waiting for an answer? Or is this problem to profane for that and we simply keep on linking them to the oldest such question and close as duplicates?


3 Answers 3


There is a well-written older question, How to get people to reply to emails and what to make of a no response?, that is quite general, and should be a good duplicate target for at least some of these questions. It does not currently address how to interpret a sudden switch from open communication to apparent radio silence, but could potentially be modified to cover this.

  • This is indeed a better dupliacte target than the one suggested by Anonymous Physicist.
    – Sursula
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 8:58
  • Unfortunately, the answers to that question don't talk about what to actually do when someone doesn't reply.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 15:31
  • @Buffy I think that is hard to address in general as it can be very situation- and person-dependent, but if you have a good strategy on how to handle people not responding after follow-ups I would encourage you to consider adding it to your own answer to that question.
    – Anyon
    Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 17:14

I dug around a bit. It seems like there are a few different question types under the same umbrella:

  1. I am an e-mailing someone about an academic matter (research or teaching). Why am I not getting responses to my e-mails? How can I improve my likelihood of getting a response? For this one, I think this question already covers the ground well, as Anyon suggested. Perhaps we could also edit it to add a link to this one that AP suggested.
  2. I am a student e-mailing professors I'd like to work with. How to interpret lack of response? Should I e-mail again? Here is an example.
  3. I am a student e-mailing professors I'd like to hire me. Is my way of writing e-mails good? This isn't exactly what you suggested in the proposal, but I think a good answer to #2 will need to cover this ground, or link to a post that covers it. This question seems like a good example, as it explains the most common mistake people make and how to avoid it. We can also add a note explaining that this only applies to countries where you apply to supervisors directly (i.e., not the US).
  4. I have a PhD and am e-mailing people about post-docs or jobs, but not getting responses. This one is an example.

My empirical sense is that #2 (and by extension, #3 also) is by far the most commonly-recurring question. If we were going to make a new canonical question, I would suggest focusing it on this. But I suggest we start with the following:

  1. Clean up these four posts by editing, perhaps merge in any other good answers from duplicate posts and add links to related post, and
  2. Close questions that are duplicates of these four questions. That will make these four questions easier to find, and will prune some of the questions that cover the same ground less thoroughly.

After that, if we want to make further changes, or want to raise any of these four to "canonical" status, we can discuss in a separate thread.

  • Thank you for you research work and I think the proposed solution is good. Do you have to do all the work or can we as non-mods help in reaching the solution?
    – Sursula
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 9:29
  • Sounds good, and thanks for the help! Editing old questions is "always okay" and can be done by anyone, so making any necessary edits to the four questions above (or to better candidates than the ones I found) is most welcome. Similarly, if there are duplicates that should be closed as duplicates, or ones that have good answers we want to merge, help finding those is super helpful, just provide the links here. I'll wait a few days to make sure both this answer and Anyon's seem to be what people want, and then I'll work through that list.
    – cag51 Mod
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 15:20

I was under the impression we already had a canonical question.

I do not see a need for a change.

  • I don't think "Is ignoring emails acceptable in academia?" really covers (or should be expected to cover) when/whether to send follow-up emails or switch to other means of communication.
    – Anyon
    Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 15:41
  • I don't think this question is very helpfull for these kinds of situations where the OP is trying to get a Phd/postdoc/masters position, as this differs from students trying to reach someone while already at their university. They cannot simply drop by and ask. Also, i think the reasons for not answering emails in cases like this might be different (e.g. the prof in question is not so sure if they are indeed a suitable candidate anymore after meeting the OP or has met better candidates in the meantime and instead of saying no, they try to sit it out until its to late).
    – Sursula
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 8:56
  • Anyon's answer is better. Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 23:34

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