Rice University is the most prestigious college in the Houston area and many students in Houston dream of attending Rice. Of course, Rice is not an easy school to get into, with only a 9% acceptance rate last year. We’ve written about admissions strategies for Rice before, but in this article, we’ll focus on something different.
Demonstrated interest is how you show a university that you want to attend. Rice does consider demonstrated interest, and also allows an additional recommendation letter. If you have a contact within Rice University, they may write a letter advocating on your behalf. In this article then, we’ll talk about how you can cultivate a contact within Rice, and how to establish that contact.
Establishing University Contacts
The first thing you need to determine is which university contacts will be most beneficial for you. Every student is different, with different goals and interests, and so different people within the university will make the best point of contact. The first thing you should do, therefore, is determining where your own interests lie, and how making contacts at a university can help further them. Now we’ll go through the ways you can contact people at a university, and how to establish relationships with them.
Contact With Professors
When trying to get professors to work with you, you need to identify your topic area very clearly. Read that professor’s publications. Develop an understanding of one nuance of the field they’re interested in exploring. Read a few publications mentioned or cited in one of their publications. Understand the questions at hand. Don’t ask for an internship straight-off – ask for an interview instead.
Plan for the interview: introducing yourself, listening to the professor introduce him/herself, asking 4-5 opinion questions for discussion. At the end of the interview, ask to follow up one more time.
The goal here is to demonstrate your passion for and interest in the field the professor is engaged with. By forming a genuine connection with a professor, you can gain a mentor, who can provide suggested reading, grant access to articles and journals otherwise unavailable to you, and help further your intellectual growth in a field.
Researchers and Post-docs
Between graduate students and professors lies the broad wastelands of semi-permanent researchers. These include post-doctoral research positions, which are usually short-term and are offered to students who have completed PhDs, and more permanent research positions, working in a lab or on a long-term ongoing research project. These positions often pay less than professorships but require less teaching.
Whether or not they will make a good potential mentor depends greatly on your field of interest. High-intensity and long-term research projects are more likely to have researchers and post-docs on staff who are not professors. Museums, laboratories, and hospitals associated with universities are the most likely places to find researchers.
You should reach out here if you are interested in the specific research goals of the project they are on, or on another topic, they are an expert in, if you determine that from their publications.
Contact With Graduate Students
You don’t need to restrict yourself to just working with professors or researchers. Working with graduate students can give you the opportunity to learn and grow as well. Graduate students will have different demands on their time from professors, however, and many will be less willing or able to help out a high school student.
For graduate students especially, you will need to identify your area of interest very specifically. Graduate studies involve becoming a master of a single aspect of a field and performing new research that furthers the understanding of the field as a whole. This means that while they may be able to tell you a great deal about their area of interest, they may not be as helpful at mentoring in a different subfield. For example, a chemistry Ph.D. student who specializes in polycarbon chain formation will be of limited use if you are interested in lithium refinement and recycling.
Most universities’ departments will include biographies of graduate students somewhere on their websites, including their research interests. Use these to narrow down which students you decide to reach out to.
How To Reach Out
Now we’ll give you an example of what a first email reaching out to a potential university contact looks like. This email comes from a previous Ivy Scholars student reaching out to a student organization, but the form can be adapted to match whoever you are making contact with. Here it is:
Dear Roosevelt Staff,
I hope this email finds you well.
My name is Jane Doe, and I am an incoming junior at St. John’s School in Houston, Texas. Your work focusing on joint collaboration to develop domestic policy strikes me as both fascinating and compelling. I too examine policy in my career in Speech and Debate at St. John’s, where I discuss the failures of state and national policy and the implementation of policy development. Learning more about Roosevelt’s research would be a valuable experience for me because of its usage of research and political analysis to create solutions to large, real-world issues.
In speech and debate, my event requires me to discuss my own analysis of domestic politics and policy on the spot. I often turn to large American think tanks as the primary source of support for my reasoning; they provide reliable analysis and information that are difficult to find in regular news articles. My focus on data and thorough analysis has helped me qualify for large tournaments such as The Tournament of Champions and Nationals.
My own academic interests span a variety of fields, particularly economics and statistics. I am interested in work that allows me to combine the two and apply them to real-world problems, which is why Roosevelt’s work appeals to me. I am driven, efficient, and dedicated to my interests. Being a part of Roosevelt would be an incredible opportunity.
I am very interested in being a part of this community. I wanted to ask if we could potentially set up a short Zoom call in August to discuss getting involved. I have attached my resume below.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
This letter begins by introducing the student, and explaining why she wants to work with the organization in question. Your own letter should begin the same way, first by introducing your current circumstances, and then by detailing your reasons for reaching out to this person or organization. Ideally stick to your main reason in this paragraph: an interest in their field, questions about a recent article, or a desire to learn more about a concrete topic or process.
The next paragraph details more of who the student is, and what she has accomplished in a field relevant to her request. This is useful background information, as it tells the potential contact how much you may know about a given subject. By showing you have prior experience with a field, you can demonstrate that it isn’t an idle interest driving your outreach, but instead a deeper passion.
The third paragraph then ties the student’s interests directly to the work of the organization. Here, you should go into some detail about what drew you to whoever you have reached out to. What work are they doing that caught your eye? Are there articles they have published or lectures they put out that you interacted with? This is the place to detail that.
We should note that the more popular a researcher is, the more demands they have on their time, and the less likely they are to respond. Reaching out to the economist behind Freakonomics is less likely to produce results than reaching out to the author of Climate, Environment, and Agriculture in Assyria.
Finally, the student indicates a desire to get involved further and offers an avenue of communication. Your first outreach may not be a zoom call; for professors and researchers, a good opening can be asking for additional work they have done on a subject that interests you, especially if you know the titles but can’t access the articles due to a paywall. For student organizations, a zoom call or just a phone call is a better choice.
While establishing a connection within Rice will not guarantee your entrance, every little boost you can get help. Further, working in collaboration with an established researcher will look good on your resume regardless of where you apply to college.
Reaching out to people at a college can feel daunting, especially for a high school student. If you want advice on how to reach out, or who you should reach out to, schedule a free consultation with us. We have a depth of experience helping students with their academic ambitions and are always happy to help.