I’m starting to receive inquiries about doctoral study now and I expect I’ll hear from more potential Ph.D. students as fall starts. At UCI School of Education, applications are due December 1. It’s a good idea to start contacting and setting up skype, in person, or phone meetings with potential mentors a couple of months before the deadline.
An e-mail inquiry is fine to start. You should introduce yourself, express an interest in doing graduate work with your potential mentor, and tell them a little about yourself. It’s helpful to include a CV but it’s not critical. This initial contact will help you to tell a potential mentor about yourself and how your interests might fit into what they are doing. You might also inquire about whether they are taking students for the following year.
In the meeting, come with questions, ask about what is going on currently with their research, new project coming up, ask about funding, ask about the program of study (beyond what’s already on the website). Be prepared to answer questions about your interests and goals. Do you want to become a faculty member, researcher, etc.?
In this conversation you will learn more about the process and how your application is evaluated. Sometimes I find myself picking up on someone’s statement and saying, “make sure to include that in your statement of purpose.” If you’re not sure what they mean, ask. I think that this part is helpful because it will help you to identify things that you should include in your materials to better shape your application.
I also think it’s good to ask to speak to other students in the program, so you can ask about that as well. Students in the program are going to have insights about the program and the work, etc. that I just don’t have. And you want to have as much information as you can to make a good decision. I’ve said before, it’s about fit, and it’s about funding. It’s also about making sure that you get the support you need to be competitive for the job market.