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Dino

Two profs recommended me for PhD...how to turn one down? Moral obligations?

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Hi all

Here is my situation. I had applied for an MS degree to some schools. Now, at one particular school, two profs contacted me to ask me if I wanted to go for a PhD right now, and they would recommend me to the graduate admissions office for the same.

 

Prof A had contacted me earlier saying that he wishes to recommend me for a PhD provided a guy he has already offered will turn the offer down.I liked the prof's profile and thus said OK, I will do it, Then he asked me to wait for about two weeks till the other guy responds.

 

In the meanwhile, another Prof B had asked me for the same, with immediate recommendation offer. I said yes to him, as I was interested in PhD anyways now. And he did his recommendation.

 

Now, the Prof A has got back to me saying that the first guy he offered has turned it down.

 

I would personally prefer to work with Prof A.

 

So...should I tell him that already Prof B has made the reco, but I would prefer him over B, so kindly make your reco as well ? should i let B know that I am more interested to work with A, and if so , how ? Will it be a negative point for my application if both profs report to the admissions committee that I have said I wanted to work with them ? Or should I just wait for the committee to decide on B's reco and the rest of my profyl...and then choose A at the time of selecting an advisor? How wrong is it to change the choice of advisor after you have been selected based on one of their recommendation in the first place? Please help !!!!

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You should let Professor A know that Professor B has already reccomended you but that you are still interested in working with Professor A--having two recommendations would certainly be helpful and once you are there you could probably do some work with both. I guess you would just be obligated to work with whomever your funding was coming from, if that hasn't already been decided then you have some leeway. 

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Dino,

 

All you can be is honest with both professors. Don't feel guilt for one professor simply because you wish to work with another. Considering they are professional level of both, they should understand the time and commitment that goes into a PhD program. You will be spending the next couple years working together; you'll want to be sure your relationship will be sustainable long-term. They ought to be supportive of any decision you make.

 

If one of the professors becomes upset your decision, rather than showing support, then I personally wouldn't want to work that person anyhow.

 

In your post title you questioned if you had a moral obligation to anyone: you don't. You don't owe anyone anything. You've paid and worked had to be where you are;  it wasn't free and effortless, and no one gave it to you out of the goodness of their hearts. Be compassionate and empathetic to those around you, but don't forget that the only that truly looks out for you is you.

 

Those are my thoughts for what they're worth. Good luck!

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hey,,thnx for the views...

 

the reason i feel a bit of moral obligation is that, when profs make a reco to the grad committee after having some conversation with the student ensuring that the research interests match...dont they expect us to work with them ???

 

and also very importantly...when are we exactly officially obligated to work with a particular prof ?? i mean...i guess i initially have to do the graduate coursework, and only then a supervisor will be allotted to me right ??

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It may be a stipulation of your funding to work with a professor for x number of hours, it really just depends but they would give you this information upon admission

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I completely understand the worry on your side because I have felt the same way, however, I don't think it is something you should stress about. During the application process I had contacted multiple POIs at multiple schools. For the POIs that did respond to me, we had some great phone conversations about their work and what my project could be. Several had mentioned wanting me to work in their lab and said they would recommend me to the adcom. A few even offered an early start in their lab in the summer. However, all of them made it clear to me that I would not be required to join their lab, even if I worked with them in the summer, and that come fall when we must decide who to work with, I could choose any lab.

 

I think it is just good form and decent to inform each POI that you have an interest in both labs. I don't think it would be right to tell both "you are my #1 choice" when this is not true because then they both will be expecting you to join their group. They understand that joining a lab is a serious commitment and so they should be professional about it and allow you to make the best choice for you without taking offense. As long as you are honest about your situation, I don't think you should be worried at all and instead should be excited that two POIs have given you their recommendation :D

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Hey..thnx for d details...but how do I tell Prof B know that I want to join Prof A , when Prof B is the guy who recommended me first ( about a week before A did ) and might be the reason I got the PhD in the first place, as A might have actually been too late to recommend??? Any suggestions ?? Wont B feel kinda cheated when I join A, as B too has clearly mentioned that HE NEEDS a PhD candidate ?? 

:huh:  :huh:  :huh:

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Seriously. You need to be evaluating what you want more and worrying less about an established professor who will undoubtedly be able to fill the vacancy should you choose the other professor. What do you want? Look at the pros and cons in each supervisor and their research interest, and don't include any moral criteria (i.e., how one may feel cheated). Make your decision based on merit and your research interest. Once you focus and do this, the answer will be clear.

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