After being posted on the department’s webpage, I began receiving applications from students interested in joining my group. And I use the term “students” broadly. At first, this was very flattering. After all, one of my biggest fears was that no one would want to join a highly unknown quantity.
After the 50th or so application in under 10 days, I added a page to my group website with extremely detailed instructions on how to go about joining my group, and a statement saying that all positions for the 2008-2009 academic year were filled (at this point, it was May). The first statement in the instructions was something to the effect of “students do not apply directly to my group, they apply to the graduate school. In the graduate school application, put a statement mentioning your interest in my research.”
[I also have sections discussing undergraduate (essentially any time – I really support/encourage undergraduates doing research) and post-doc (not this year) applications. I’m still getting post-doc applications as well. One would think that by the time a graduate student has made it to post-doc status they can read a sentence that says “no openings for 2008-2009 academic year”. But that is a different matter.]
Now, I am not totally clueless. I realize that as a professor I can have some pull over an admission decision. If I really want a student and they are border line, I can push their application over the edge. However, they still have to put their application in the pool to begin with! Who is spreading the rumor that students apply directly to professors? Is this how it works at other schools? It hasn’t worked this way at any school I have attended.
Further still, I’m still getting applications (for this academic year). At first, I was taking the time to write emails back to each student. Now, I have a form letter that I email in response. I really didn’t want to become the form letter-type professor. But, then again, these are also form letter-type students. At least, in almost all cases, they are getting my gender correct (it helps that my picture is posted).