Letters To, Letters From

Here is a "probe" Email - just trying to make initial contact, while learning about more resources for me to use as I continue to educate myself.

Subject: Procrastination and persistancy - an inquiry

Good morning, Dr. [name].

My name is Eran Magen, and I am writing this letter asking for a moment of your time in assistance to an aspiring psychology student (that's me).

I have a deep interest in the lack of persistency between people's decisions and their actual *actions* - the lack of commitment to our own decisions, if you will ("I will exercise every day" / "I will never again raise my voice in an argument" / "I will get out of bed as soon as the alarm rings tomorrow morning" etc.).

I have been looking at different PhD programs (and their respective staff of teachers) and was lucky enough to come across your page on the San Diego University web site. I believe that there is a certain overlap between your study of procrastination and the memory of emotions and my own interest. I was hoping you could point me in the direction of relevant resources (web / magazines), through which I'd be able to (a) Strengthen my knowledge of the area and (b) Lock onto fitting PhD programs / staff.

I am very thankful to you just for reading this far. If you could find the time to respond to this inquiry, I will be downright grateful :-)

Thanks again for your time, and have a good day,

- Eran

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Without a doubt, this is one of the nicest, most helpful people I've had the pleasure of meeting along the way. Here's the response I got:

Subject: Re: Procrastination and persistancy - an inquiry

I teach a course centering on exactly the issue of your inquiry. Today is your lucky day: I have attached the syllabus for that course. All you have to do is stop by the library, read all those articles, and become an expert in the field. Or, if you are more patient, you could do very well in school, do brilliantly on the GRE, apply here for graduate school, be admitted, and accept, and then take my class. Either way will work.       -[name]

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The overwhelming majority of responses were extremely kind and helpful. Even professors who had little to do with my interests were kind enough to Email back something like:

Subject: Re: Delay of Gratification and Memory of Past Decisions(Perseverance)

Dear Eran -

I'm not sure that I know anything directly relevant to your particular interests, but in my view, the world's expert on delay of gratification is Walter Mischel, at Columbia University. You might also look for work by people who study self-regulation, like Barry Zimmerman and Dale Schunk, and you might be interested in the thoughts (generally without hard "data") of an economist named Thomas Schelling.

Best of luck on your project.


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I only remember one professor who sent out a somewhat obnoxious response. And even that hardly did any damage. What can I say, I made a mistake.

Re: Perseverance, memory of past decisions

I assume you sent this note to 100 people. Otherwise I can't imagine why you think I would know about this stuff.

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At this point I added another part to my Email - I started inquiring about becoming a research assistant.

Subject: perseverance and memory of past decisions

Professor [name],

My name is Eran Magen, and I am currently preparing to start the application process to a Psychology PhD program. I have completed my BA in Israel some years ago, and am currently working as a Homeless Outreach Specialist here in New York. I am writing this letter asking for a quick word of advice, if at all possible.

I have been conducting some research, and came across your name. I believe there is some overlap between our declared areas of interest, and that is why I am writing this letter to you.

My area of interest is perseverance and delay of gratification - a person's (in)ability to remember a previous decision made (I will jump out of bed when the clock rings / I will never again raise my voice in an argument / I won't use heroin again / I will exercise 5 times a week / etc.). I have my own thoughts on the subject, but at the time I am doing my best to learn the existing material.

I would be thankful if you could point me in the direction of some relevant resources (web / print), with which I'd be able to improve my understanding of related topics.

I am also looking for a place where I could gain some serious research experience, hopefully in a related topic. I have a solid logistical background (I have served as an operations officer in the Israeli army, coordinating projects of considerable complexity), and would be grateful if you could contribute your thoughts on this. It seems that research assistants / coordinators listings are not the most common out there, and I am certain that you are better versed than I am at methods of recruiting external research assistants / coordinators.

I thank you very much for taking the time to read this far. I understand that you have a busy schedule, and appreciate your time.

Have a good day,

- Eran

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This letter was sent out to the university of Colorado - those are things I just couldn't figure out on my own.

Subject: Application question

Good morning.

I am currently looking for a PhD program in cognitive psychology, and have been very impressed with your university. Before starting the entire application process, I have a couple of questions:

Thank you very much for your time, and have a good week.

- Eran

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Here's another example (with a response) of the same idea - if I wasn't sure about something, I just asked:

Subject: Re: Questions regarding graduate program admission

I'll answer your questions below.


At 08:29 PM 6/6/02 -0400, you wrote:
>Good morning.
>I am preparing to apply for the Psychology Graduate program at Florida State
>University. I have a few questions which I could not find the answer for on
>the Web:
>* I am taking the GRE in about a week. Is there a "routing number" I need to
>know in order to send the score to you, or is the name "Florida State
>University" sufficient?

The routing number for FSU is 5219.

>* Do I need to have an open application file with your admissions office
>before sending the GRE score, or will it be received and recorded even
>before an application is sent?

You can send your GRE scores at any time.

>* Where can I view statistics for recently (last year or two) admitted
>graduate students, in regards to GPA's, GRE scores etc.?

The mean scores for GRE are approximately 1200 on the verbal and 
quantitative scores combined and the GPA is approximately 3.5.

>* I would like to verify that the GRE Subject Test in Psychology is not
>necessary in order to be admitted. If that is the case, could taking it
>possibly enhance my application?

The GRE subject test is not required but some faculty value the information.

>* I have completed my BA degree in Israel, but I am an American Citizen
>(born in California) and English is my native language. Do I need to take
>the TOEFL?


>* I have the original transcripts from the university in English. Would the
>University in Israel need to send you original transcripts, or is there a
>way to make authorized copies?

You should ask this questions of the Admissions Office an email address for 
them would be [Email] [name] will be glad to assist you.

>* Will I be considered an "international student"? Is it at all beneficial
>to be considered an "international student", in terms of competition,
>housing, etc?

You would be considered a US applicant.

>     Thanks you very much.
>     Sincerely,
>- Eran

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Here is a quick exchange around setting up a time to meet a professor at the University of Oregon, Eugene.

RE: Self Regulation and Emotional Forgetfulness


It would probably be best for us to try to meet on Friday Jan 3.  When will 
you be here?  I should be able to meet you almost anytime.


>===== Original Message From eran@af-ma.com =====
>	Professor [name],
>	Continuing our brief correspondence, I was hoping we could find a time to
>meet when I am in Eugene. I will be there starting Jan. 3rd (Friday) and
>leaving on Jan. 7th (Tuesday). Would it be possible for you to meet during
>one of those days?
>	If Tuesday is to your convenience, I would prefer to meet as early as
>possible (I am traveling to San Francisco that same day). Again, my
>apologies for the constrained schedule - hopefully it would be possible for
>us to meet.
>	Thank you again and enjoy New Year's,
>- Eran

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Here is the exchange of Emails around notifying a professor in one of the universities I was applying to that I have chosen to go to Stanford. As always, he responded in the kindest manner I could hope for.

Subject: Re: Graduate school

Dear Eran,

Thanks for letting me know and congratulations! I'm sure you are going to be very happy at Stanford and I'm sure we will be running into each other at various conferences.

Best of luck with everything.


At 06:05 AM 3/11/03 +0000, you wrote:

>Dear professor [name],
>I apologize for the late response. I have been waiting to verify some
>information before writing back to you, and hence the delay.
>I am very flattered to hear that the social area is excited about my
>application :) and I thank you for letting me know.
>I have, during the past week, been invited to the program at Stanford - and
>chose to accept their invitation. Now that it has been finalized, I can 
>let you
>know that my name can be taken off of the applicants' list.
>I still remember with much gratitude the time you dedicated to me at the
>beginning of this process, explaining and helping me to understand what the
>application process is like in the US - in regards to test scores,
>recommendations, research experience, etc. I am still very grateful for your
>willingness to help at that time. Thank you very much.
>With any luck, I may still get to meet you in the future. In the meantime, I
>wish you the best and thank you again.
>Warm regards,
>- Eran

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