I sent an email to a professor and asked him if there's any PhD position available in his group. I also told him that I want to apply for SINGA scholarship program if he agrees to supervise me.

The professor replied:

My experience with the SINGA program is that it is very competitive. Almost all successful applications have already published papers prior to application. I do not believe your chances for getting accepted are too high.

I really want to give it a try. How should I reply to tell the professor politely to please support my application, and that I don't care if I get a rejection from SINGA scholarship program?

Also, I am writing a research article, and I am hopeful it will be complete within two weeks.

  • 2
    Have you worked for the professor before? Have you taken his class before? What do you want him to do to support your application of SINGA? Do you have backup plan if the application of SINGA is rejected?
    – Nobody
    May 21, 2018 at 6:11
  • No. I haven't worked with him before. Moreover, I am writing a research article. I am hopeful it will be complete within next 2 weeks. May 21, 2018 at 6:14
  • How do you know your article will be accepted by journal/conference? What's your backup plan? Pay attention to his e-mail Almost all successful applications have already published papers prior to application
    – Nobody
    May 21, 2018 at 6:17
  • Well, nobody is sure that their article will be accepted. The only thing that I can say right now is that my current supervisor says that my article will be accepted easily. May 21, 2018 at 6:19
  • 1
    I think it's a good idea for your current supervisor to say this in his recommendation letter.
    – Nobody
    May 21, 2018 at 6:21

3 Answers 3


The professor is saying no. He is being polite about it, but he's saying he doesn't want you in his group. Arguing with him is not going to change that. (In fact it's more likely to solidify in his mind that you are a bad candidate, with poor social skills, who would be a poor fit in his program.)

Look for somewhere else to go.

  • From the parts quoted, I'm not sure that this a rejection to working with the candidate, but rather a "don't get your hopes up." I would be shocked if being a competitive candidate for a particular award were a requirement for working with him. I do agree that arguing on that point is unlikely to help; perhaps the best response is a simple, "Thank you for your advice about the SINGA. That probably means my time is better spent right now doing final edits on my research paper than on applying for that award." May 22, 2018 at 21:18
  • (That said, I may be missing context: with the SINGA, is becoming a PhD student with that professor likely dependent on receiving the award? In the U.S., it seems like that is how an NSF postdoc award works (funding wouldn't exist otherwise for the desired position), but I have not heard of a PhD position being contingent on receiving an NSF predoctoral fellowship.) May 22, 2018 at 21:22

I agree with iayork that your professor appears to be giving you a polite and implicit "no", framed in a way that requires you to read-between-the-lines. However, he hasn't been explicit, and if you want to follow-up to get an explicit answer, you should feel free to do so.

If this is indeed a read-between-the-lines-no, then further inquiry into the matter will probably just get you a more explicit "no". However, you could reasonably make your inquiry tangentially, by asking this professor for some advice on what additional work you would need to do to become a competitive candidate, and get to a level where he would support your application. From his email, clearly one thing you can do is to publish some academic work; you could reasonably ask if there is anything else you ought to be doing to become competitive.


You reply: "Thank you".

It's rare that a professor will be so direct and tell someone outright not to try to apply for a given program/scholarship because they don't stand a chance. I don't know SINGA but scholarship applications usually require a lot of work on your end (and also from other people, like the ones writing recommendation letters). This professor is doing you a favor by telling you your time and efforts would be most likely better invested in something else. For example: becoming a stronger candidate, alternatively apply to a less-competitive scholarship.

Don't take it personally. There are many reasons that make some people eligible and most others not.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .