I applied to a foreign university. I was interviewed and now I am waiting for the result.

I had also applied to another research opportunity abroad, which is organized by my current department head. I was very hopeful that I would be selected for this opportunity because I am the first-ranking student and my English is very good. I spoke respectfully with the head professor about it on several occasions, but it seemed like he was making excuses and was not fairly considering me.

I recently found out that my classmate was selected for the opportunity abroad. He had performed much worse than me on classes we had taken together, and his English is very weak. I lost control and told the head of the department where there is a research opportunity that I would report this obvious injustice to the leading mathematicians at the university that had interviewed me recently. I did indeed e-mail my interviewers.

Now that I have calmed down, I realize that I should not have emailed my interviewers in this manner. Could it affect the outcome of my application?

Appendix: Thank you for your suggestions and advice. In fact, I have realized that I should always remain academically professional. I also sent a follow-up email to my interviewer and expressed my regret at my previous email.

Appendix 2: Now that I am more calm, I realize that my act was childish. I was not the employer to decide whom to hire. I emailed the head professor and and the one at the institution where there is a research opportunity expressing my regret. But now I feel like I need to try even much more than before to become successful. Good luck specially to me

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    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 14:02
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    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 15:28

7 Answers 7


I am going to just be honest in this response.

Why would the researchers at the British university you applied to care about what professors do at another university?

If I received an email from an applicant to my university about a matter at another program, I would think it was strange. Why would I care?

"Leading mathematicians" at a university unaffiliated with the research program you were not accepted for likely do not have time to become involved in petty politics and fights that are irrelevant to them.

Now, as for how it will affect your application, your email might likely mean nothing in the end. The interviewers will likely blow it off or do very little about it. This plays in your favor. Least said, soonest mended.

This being said, sending an email like you did could give an indication to the interviewers that you are whiny and immature. I would consider sending a follow up email to the interviewers saying that you acted in haste and have realized that it is obviously not their job to referee such disagreements. More often than not, the interviewers would think it odd that you had initially emailed them, but will also move on with their day as normal if you recanted what you said and just moved on. At least for me, I do not have time to psychoanalyse every applicant I come across for maturity.

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    "Now, as for how it will affect your application, your email might likely mean nothing in the end": well, it certainly means that @Guest1 is not able to handle well conflicts and stressful situations, so, yes, it can certainly affect their application in a negative way. Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 17:17
  • Extended discussions and completely unrelated points have been moved to chat. Please only post a new comment if you have a specific suggestion on how to improve the question or direct point of critique. If you want to respond to existing comments, either do this in chat or, if you’re Vladhagen, edit the question. Please read this FAQ before posting another comment.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 8:48
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    I do not have time to psychoanalyse every applicant I come across for maturity. No, but when they do it for you, by sending a wildly inappropriate email, it's really hard to ignore. OP has shot themselves in the foot. It will be a hard lesson.
    – J...
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 15:13

I had some troubles following your question, but if I understood correctly then I would assume that:

  1. The professor interviewing you is highly confused right now. They seem to have literally nothing to do with your university, the program, you (other than having interviewed you recently), and the person that you accused of being unjust - and yet they are drawn into a conflict that they have no stakes in nor responsibility for.
  2. You may indeed have lowered your chances of getting accepted considerably. In the best case your email would be seen as odd. In the worst case it would be seen as grossly unprofessional, painting you as a trouble maker who will randomly lash out whenever something happens that you consider unjust. I have seen students like that, and I know of no professor / admission committee that wants to bother with this kind of drama.

However, now that I have calmed down I have realized that I should not have let even injustices affect me and it was unnecessary to email my interviewer.

I think your reflection should go deeper than that. It is true that part of being a professional is also being able to absorb smaller perceived unjustices like that (empathy and an ability to accept that grades aren't everything helps here), but I also can't help but wonder what you were trying to achieve with this email in the first place. To me (and note that I am only going by your short recap) this sounds rather vindictive, serving no other purpose than to get back at the person not recommending you. If that is indeed the case, you should take a good hard look at your actions in this case and learn from that for the future.

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    @Guest1 For further reflection the professor might have been evasive because his real reasons for not choosing you is your character. If you behaved similarly in the past or gave him reason to think you would, it's possible he considered you unfit or did not want to recommend someone that could reflect bad on him when it turns out at the other university that the person feels entitled and handles rejection badly. I'm not saying this is the case, but for the future, consider that grades and what you perceive to be valid criteria are not necessarily (all) the criteria someone else applies. Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 23:52
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    @Guest1 You might consider that your effort to impact their reputations was also likely entirely ineffective, whether or not you were treated unfairly. Your interviewers, who barely know you, aren't going to change their opinions about your department head (if they even had opinions about him in the first place) because you think you should have been selected for an opportunity you didn't receive. They might, however, change their opinions about you. Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 0:08
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    @FrankHopkins your comment sounds harsh but seems to be correct with 99% probability. Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 5:33

Firstly, thanks for being brave enough to make this post and seek advice. The responses you will get are going to be critical of your behaviour, so let me pre-empt this by saying that the fact that you are now seeking advice is a good thing. With great respect, everything you describe in your post is way out-of-line, and yes, quite obviously your email is going to severely harm your application.

Even before we get to the email, losing control at your Department Head over his selection of another student for a research opportunity is not an appropriate response to that circumstance. This selection may seem like an "obvious injustice" to you, but there are many possible reasons it could have been made, notwithstanding your superior grades and English language skills. A Department Head is an experienced academic, and they generally have sound judgment on these matters, so it would have been far better to find out the reasons for the selection of the other student. It would also have been far better to seek feedback on your own short-comings, and how to improve your chances for later opportunities.

If there was indeed some unfairness in the selection process for that application (and you do not specify what the nature of that unfairness might be) then there are ways to raise this in a professional manner. There may have been some opportunity to complain or seek a review of the decision under university rules, but even if there was not, "losing control" at your Department Head, and threatening (and then carrying out) a campaign of defamation, is not the appropriate response.

As to your email, this is also totally out-of-line, and it reflects terribly on you. The university selection panel you have written to has no role scrutinising the decisions of your Department Head, so what this email demonstrates to them is: (1) you are prone to lash-out and defame others when you do not get what you want; (2) you only see your own assessment of the "injustice" of a decision, and are not adept at seeing the matter from the point-of-view of others; (3) when you have a grievance, you take a "scorched Earth" approach rather than raising your grievance in a professional manner and with regard to appropriate procedures; and (4) you expect unrelated bodies to weigh into your grievance.

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    +1. I once had an applicant for a permanent (industry R&D) position who sent a resume along with a 20-page philosophical manuscript with his "thoughts on the concept of being employed" (with axioms and proofs and figures). I didn't even open his resume -- the fact that he thought it was appropriate to send such ramblings when applying for a job told me everything I needed to know about his professional judgment. Imagine how much more damage OP's e-mail will do.
    – cag51
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 3:18
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    @cag51: A part of me can't help but actually be a bit impressed (and curious) about that. He sounds like a hoot.
    – Ben
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 10:17

Throwing accusations around without proof of wrongdoing will not make you any friends, not at your university and neither where you applied. First, let's address the accusations and why you should have kept them to yourself:

  • You didn't attend the interview of the chosen student. He/she might have shown desirable traits beyond academic prowess
  • Maybe the student had relevant experience that you were not aware of
  • Most people are a poor judge of their own ability

Even in the case where you, objectively, were the better student, it still is not proof of any wrongdoing and learning to take defeat graciously reflects much better on you than throwing a tantrum.

Finally, this email you sent will definitely affect the way you are seen by the interviewer. At best, it will be seen as childish/petty, but it could also reflect a troublemaker personality. I suggest you immediately retract what you said in this email unless you have proof, along the lines of 'I now recognize I was too hasty in throwing such accusations, and I'm sorry for involving you in this matter'.

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    @Guest1 Apart from any other consideration, in mathematics there is a high standard when using the word "proof". I doubt that you have anything which could be considered a proof in any rigorous sense. Using the word "proof" in a weaker sense is not a good strategy when trying to apply for something in mathematics. Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 14:39
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    @Guest1 See, the thing is, it's not about who's right. You might be right, or you might not. It's about maturity and graciousness. What could you possibly gain from sending that email? Vindication? Revenge? Either way think about what that tells the interviewer. All he knows is you're able to do the work (probably?), and also don't take rejection well. He doesn't know you, he probably isn't personally familiar with the professor whose reputation you've tried to tarnish. You've shown that if he tells you 'No' that you will whine about it to his colleagues and try to destroy his reputation. Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 14:55
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    I think even sending a retraction e-mail would require a huge amount of finesse... If you can't send a good one, it may be better to just be silent and hope the incident fades from memory as quickly as possible instead of spreading into legend with your name attached (either way, I suspect this bridge is thoroughly burnt). Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 19:46

It seems you are missing a few key points here.

The most important one is that people sent to this "research opportunity abroad" are ambassadors of your current department.

Don't shoot the messenger: You have shown that you are entitled, vindictive and hot-headed. Taking this into account, it seems that your head professor chose wisely by not picking you as an ambassador.

A motivated student with basic English skills can become fluent abroad in a few months.

Your behavior surely affected negatively the outcome of your application, and will continue to do so if you don't work on your social skills. Good luck!

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    @Guest1 Your personality might perfectly be the reason, as the action you took was quite unprofessional, vindictive and maybe even irrational
    – Lamak
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 15:50
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    @Guest1: So... what's the reason? Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 15:59
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    @Guest1: First, I'm really sorry that you didn't get the position you desired. Still, I have to say that your whole behavior and comments here make it clear why you wouldn't have been chosen. The sooner you realize your personality or lack of social skills really might have played a role in the rejection, the sooner you'll be able to move on and have better chances for the next opportunity. The way you present it, it doesn't seem that you learned anything from this failure. Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 16:32
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    @EricDuminil because the majority of the comments imply that there is something wrong about my personality, I will think about it. Thanks for your suggestion.
    – user109756
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 16:38
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    @Guest1 as someone who once attended college in the UK (a long time agao, admittedly) but who still has friends and family living there, I can assure you that the British (academia) generally dislike and distrust anyone who raises a "fuss" over perceived injustices. It seems to me that the tone of the email was likely to be aggressive, another red flag. Instead, your academic record, letter of recommendation and letter of statement should stand alone and convince the reader(s) of your merits and academic achievements.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 6:53

I'm sorry to add insult to injury, but @Guest1, just reading your (edited) question suggests that you are impulsive, hot-headed, fiery and, most concerning of all, entitled.

Please do a little self-introspection and analysis, and more importantly, ask those people nearest to you: family, friends, peers, and professors an honest assessment of your character.

Get that precious feedback, assure them that you will not be offended, hurt or be upset, and while they are talking, listen, do not interrupt them.

If the feedback is generally positive, then chalk the email up to inexperience and a moment of poor judgement. It will still serve as an invaluable lesson in humility.

If the feedback is mixed or shockingly bad, it will be easier to comprehend the self-inflicted damage that email has probably committed. We don't know what words were used in the email nor its tone, but if I had received an email from an “unknown” applicant who accused a professor of bias and another candidate of being unqualified, I would certainly think twice before considering that person's application.

However, in your post you mentioned that the professors to whom you forwarded the email, had actually interviewed you

I would report this obvious injustice to the leading mathematicians at the university that had interviewed me recently.

Perhaps you performed well in your interviews, perhaps you left a positive impression, in which case these mathematicians will probably overlook your (spiteful?) heated email, and seeing you have since apologised, that too should also play in your favour. A person who is humble enough to apologise when they have realised their mistake is, in my books, commendable, unless the email was clearly written by someone in the throes of a conniption fit, only you know the answer to that.

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    I never knew I might be entitled. Circumstances may have caused me to look entitled. I never wanted to act impulsively. All of a sudden, I was faced by so many rejections from all of the scientific institutions to which I had applied, except for one to which I am grateful for it gave me the opportunity to introduce who I am in an interview. The fact that I was rejected by all of the other ones even without being interviewed gave me a very bad feeling. So I started to expect my mathematics department head to support me academically. I was completely wrong, and I learned my lesson.
    – user109756
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 11:47
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    I will try to fix these faulty traits in me, so I think this lesson has helped me not to become fiery and act impulsively any more. I may have looked entitled, so I will review myself so that I do not look entitled any more
    – user109756
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 11:49
  • @Guest1 I would ask your former professors for guidance. Good luck with everything.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 14:53

I think that most of the answers give you pertinent advice. You applied for a research program. In the future, you will probably apply for post-doc, permanent positions if you decide to stay in academia, otherwise you will still have to apply. The majority of the applications will fail, which is normal and there can be some disappointment. In order to be not too much affected, here are some advice.

  • First, we have to keep in mind that there is no total ordering of the candidates. It is surely not so often that there is a candidate who is better than all the others in all the possible aspects which are required for a position. It is also hard to say "A is better than B" otherwise the role of the commissions would be easy.

  • Second, as pointed out in other answers, there is a big part of unknown: about the profile of other candidates for examples and also how their interview went. Somehow surprisingly, there is also a part of unknown about your interview. The member of commissions are usually not emotional hence you do not know exactly how an answer to a question was received.

  • Third, we have to consider that we only need one application which works and that when one failed, we did not lose any thing because we had nothing before (having the position was not a debt).

It seems that it is the fact that you were affected that led you to write the email. Next time, it would be better to ask for example the aspects of your curriculum that you could improve instead of putting into question the choice of the commission.

  • I was rejected by almost all the institutions I had applied to without clear reasons which made me feel very bad. I know that interview is part of an application but I was not even interviewed before being rejected. I could not tolerate these rejections and so I acted very unwisely. But I am sorry and I will never do such a mistake again.
    – user109756
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 11:54
  • To be more clear, I expected to be either admitted, or rejected with a clear reason. If my applications had been rejected with clear reasons I might have even sent them a gratitude email for their assessing my applications equally. However, I now know that instead I should only work on my social skills and improve my scientific profile
    – user109756
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 12:25
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    @Guest1 As a general hint in that regard: You will likely receive more rejections than acceptance answers from job applications in your life, depending on how broad your application pattern is and what area you apply for. Typically this gets a bit better when you grow more experienced as you become specialized and apply to positions fitting your specialisation such that the candidate pool shrinks, but still, rejections are common. And in particular, in 99% of all cases you will not get any particular reason. Often there is no clear reason and if there is it is much safer legally for [cont] Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 23:08
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    @Guest1 an employer to not specify that reason in a rejection, as that might open them up to get sued. Whether they would win or not does not matter, if they don't provide a reason that's a sure way to not provide any grounds for any legal case to build on. You can counter that general tendency by applying very specifically to jobs that fit perfectly for you, but especially at the beginning of any career that's not easy to do. Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 23:10

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