I applied to a PhD program. I contacted one professor and told him that I would like to join in his research team. He replied to me that he was unlikely to take on any direct advisees this year. He also said:

It is not necessary to be adopted into a specific research group in order to be accepted into the program; you can be accepted into the program, assigned an adviser, and then work with some other professors. I will keep an eye out for your application.

What can I do now? Do I need to contact another professor?

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    I expect that there's a good duplicate for this somewhere although I can't find one immediately. In the US context, many academic departments operate under a system where students are accepted into the graduate program by a departmental committee rather than an individual professor. The professor's quote seems to be making that point that you can apply to the program and be assigned an advisor later. Dec 13, 2018 at 22:47
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    @BrianBorchers Hopefully you mean that they can choose an advisor later.
    – JeffE
    Dec 13, 2018 at 23:10
  • Practices vary a lot between departments. In some cases students are assigned to advisors with little choice, while in other cases students have quite a bit of choice in the process. In my experience the faculty member nearly always has the option to accept or decline to advise a student in these situations. Dec 13, 2018 at 23:20

1 Answer 1


If this is the US, then it is common for students to be accepted into a doctoral program without knowing who their advisor might be. You will be assigned an advisor by the department initially so that you get course advice, etc. But that may not be the person you actually want to work with.

Once you are accepted into the program, you have some time to look around and match up with a professor who will be your dissertation advisor, dropping the old, temporary, advisor.

So, no, you don't need to contact another professor now in order to apply. Once you are accepted you will want to attend to that, of course.

Note that the practice varies by country, by university, and by field. What I describe isn't universal. In some situations you do need to know which research group you will be part of in order to be accepted, but the response you got suggests that the situation here is as I described.

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