I know that it's a horrible thing to do. It was a professor at a prestigious University who expressed interest in my ideas. I never responded because severe conflict broke out between me and my family regarding my career choice. And that was a year ago. Conflict is still there but I'm stronger, and I sent a sincere apology to the professor, but I still want to know how bad my situation is if I want to reapply to the same University for a Masters (i don't even dare to hope to work with the same professor).

  • I would be surprised if the professor even recalled you with any clarity. – Azor Ahai Sep 1 '19 at 20:13

If it is a coursework masters, then you would have minimal or no interaction with the previous professor, unless the professor is teaching a subject in the Masters. If it is a research masters and you are in the same department, then you would be working or at least bumping into the prof at departmental meetings and events.

Seems unlikely that there would be great animosity. Your circumstances seems very reasonable and most people would not react adversely or take it too personally. I am sure if you are in the professor's department, then you can have a casual chat and smooth over any frustrations. The prof might be able to collaborate or support you in some way as they were previously interested.


It may take time until a student is ready to actually start a thesis. Unless you promised something firmly and flaked out, I do not think that there is much personal harm done.

Of course, the professor may have become interested in other things in the meantime, and his original interest in your question could have evaporated. But it's worth getting back in contact to see how things stand.


While it depends on personalities, you might find that all avenues are still open to you. Professors, even quite prestigious ones, are still people, and most of them (us?) care about students and understand their difficulties.

But, the best way to remove issues from the past is to do so in person. A letter or email isn't enough. Nor can you evaluate the response if you just send a mail. Go to visit the professor and apologize for what happened earlier, but also explaining that you had personal/family issues that were affecting your ability to work effectively toward your future. You can remind him/her of your old work and ask if there is any possibility to continue that, or something similar, in the future.

You might be told no, of course, but if you don't ask then there is no hope. But I think that you would get a strongly negative response only if the person isn't someone you should really work with anyway.

  • It sounds like this is a university that OP currently does not attend, but wishes to apply to. It may not even be located in the same part of the world as OP. I do not agree that OP needs to make a special visit in person to try to smooth this over. It seems to me a very minor matter, and I think an apologetic email is more than sufficient. – Nate Eldredge Sep 1 '19 at 12:10
  • @NateEldredge yes, of course. What is desirable isn't always possible. – Buffy Sep 1 '19 at 12:26
  • Well, I think there is a certain type of student who, on reading your answer, would jump on a plane and fly halfway around the world to go apologize to the professor in person. Which in my view would be a huge waste of money and time. – Nate Eldredge Sep 1 '19 at 12:29
  • @NateEldredge, sure, I wouldn't recommend that. You do what is possible but seek the best thing possible that is open to you. The personal trumps the impersonal. It is harder to ignore, easier to evaluate, and better opens lines of communication that can be valuable in the future. I don't claim that it is the only way possible, just that it is best. And, FWIW, I don't think I ever met that student, actually. – Buffy Sep 1 '19 at 12:42

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