I recently asked two professors by email if I could do an independent study with them. Both of them responded, saying that they can sponsor me for the study. As soon as I received the first professor's response, I replied, saying that I wanted to work with him and scheduling a face-to-face meeting.

Now that both professors have responded, though, I think I would enjoy working with the second professor more. Would it be appropriate for me to tell the first professor that I changed my mind, or would it be wrong to take back the commitment I already gave him? If it would be appropriate to change my mind, how can I handle the situation tactfully?

Although I would prefer to work with the second professor, I know that I would enjoy working with either of them, so I'll be fine if it's too late to change my mind.

Edit: Here is some more information about my specific situation.

I am planning on doing the same project with either professor. I am currently writing the music for a video game, and I would be working with the professors to produce the music and create a graded portfolio. I haven't worked out any specific details with either professor.

Both professors are music professors who have specific knowledge about music technology. The reason I would prefer working with the second professor is because I know he has expert knowledge of the software I'm using to produce the music. In addition, he is skilled with the genres of music I'm producing as well as writing film scores. I'm not sure how much the first professor knows about these specific topics.

  • 1
    I am an undergraduate, but I believe my question is still appropriate for this site because it is applicable to similar situations in post-graduate academics.
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 19:47
  • 1
    Just ask, say: I got two simultaneous positive responses. Do you have a strong opinion about whether I work with you or Professor X? If he says no, I assume he means it. And if says yes you should probably honor his feeling.
    – dcaswell
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 21:15
  • I'd use your second paragraph as explanation (minus the last line) if the first professor asks (and only if). Also, in response to @user814064, I don't think that the professor gets "first right of refusal"
    – Suresh
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 23:05
  • Can you work with both of them?
    – Anonymous
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 1:14
  • I think it does matter that this is an undergraduate question: it means that the expectations of the professors is likely to be much lower, as is the amount of time and effort they are likely to invest in it.
    – 410 gone
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 7:51

2 Answers 2


Do you have a project already lined up ? it sounds like your meeting with the first professor would be to discuss topics for the study. In any case, if no financial agreement has been reached, I see no harm in talking with both professors and then making a decision based on what happens in those meetings. I disagree with @aeismail that you've given a formal commitment at this stage.

You didn't say though why you'd prefer to work with the second professor prior to having a meeting ? is it the subject matter ? general rapport ?

  • 4
    The key is what has been said: if the professor could view it as an agreement in principle, that makes things thorny. If it's just a chance to discuss things further before making a decision, that's a different matter.
    – aeismail
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 21:47

It's a good situation to have to be interested in two projects, and be equally happy to work on either of them.

However, if you have given a commitment to one of the professors, then you really should honor that commitment. Reneging on your commitment will look bad to the first professor, and if the second professor finds out, that could leave a bad impression on his mind, as well.

You could tactfully tell the second professor, "I would really love to work for you, but Professor X gave me an offer first, and I accepted before I received your offer. I am sorry to have to decline, but perhaps we can work together in the future."

I don't think there's a tactful way to say the same thing to a professor after you've made a commitment; you'll come across as very opportunistic instead (note: that's not a good thing!).


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