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How to say no to an overly enthusiastic professor?


thenewkidaw71
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Hi all,

I have made a decision with schools, and now I am working on notifying everybody of my decisions. This is not a problem for the most part; however, I am struggling with informing one very enthusiastic professor about my decision. I feel bad because he is at a school in the UK and has been working on grant funding for me to join his lab, and he has been very enthusiastic about me as a student. It was a really great situation, and their research is a great fit, but I ultimately decided that I wanted to remain within the US system.

I know that the answer is that I am under no obligation to join his lab, but I know he has invested a lot of time in me, and I want to avoid burning a bridge as best as I can. I feel bad because this was partially my fault - this was one of my first choices in November, and I told him as much. This situation changed because my funding package in the UK sort of sucked, and I found out about a new professor at one of my admitted schools in the US that aligns better with my interests. Does anybody have any experience/warnings/reassurance that they can provide? I am sure he is aware that I have other options, but it is just a bit daunting because of his enthusiasm.

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I'd just try to be honest with him. Tell him thank you for his kind offer of admittance, you appreciate his enthusiasm for his work, acknowledge that he spent the time getting to know you and emphasize that this decision was not made lightly. I doubt you have to go into detail as to why you're rejecting the offer, but stating that you'd ultimately decided that you would rather not move across seas is a pretty persuasive detail. If they're anyone worth their salt, they're going to understand.

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Also, not super helpful, but I would respond soon.  If he's going through all the extra effort of securing you funding, the expectations are only going to rise higher the more time and effort he invests in your accepting.

I sympathize.  I really do.  I've basically decided on one school, but the program director at the school I'm planning on turning down has been so kind and vocal about his wanting me in the program (he even offered me an incentive scholarship this afternoon) that I'm seriously second guessing my decision.  It's not the ego boost so much as how personable and supportive he's been.  That's the kind of program director you want to work with and have your back, you know?  It doesn't help that the two schools are basically even as far as the pros and cons of each program.  It basically came down to location appeal and how that would affect my future writing.  (I'm applying to creative writing MFAs.)

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Thanks to both of you! I really appreciate the support, and I mustered up the confidence to write him an email last night. It is such a weird situation, especially in the UK where you are required to have your PhD mentor support your application through the process. I wrote him a ton of thank yous and hopefully lessened the ill will by suggesting that I could postdoc for him down the road (which I would honestly LOVE to do if my research continues in a similar direction).

Now, to wait and see if I burned the bridge forever :blink:

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