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I have found a potential advisor that is keen on advising me for Phd and has offered to fund me. However, he isn't sure if he has sufficient funds and budget to do so (something he is still figuring out and things don't seem too hopeful). He has told me to proceed with the application nonetheless. Should I go ahead with the application and continue waiting on the news about the funds, knowing that there is a good possibility that there wont be sufficient funds? Or would it be better to turn down the offer early on and apply for jobs instead? I'm asking because I don't want to wait too long for something that might not work out, but the PI has gone through the trouble of working out plans to make things work and I feel really bad if I backed out now. Furthermore, I am really interested in the projects the group has to offer, and everyone in the lab were lovely. I've also heard many good things about the PI as a Phd advisor. So I was really looking forward to joining the lab. On the other hand, I feel that if I were to decline the offer, I should notify the PI as soon as possible so it saves the PI further time and trouble.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

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    The only thing you have to lose by applying now and waiting to hear is the fee and your time. These are small, in the grand scheme. Oct 29, 2019 at 15:36
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    @AzorAhai, actually for someone who hasn't done it before, the experience is probably worth the cost in any case.
    – Buffy
    Oct 29, 2019 at 15:40
  • @Buffy Also true Oct 29, 2019 at 15:53

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If the cost and time are reasonable by your standards the I'd suggest you do it for the experience if nothing else. There is little else to lose in this.

Applying isn't a commitment on your part, it is just an expression of interest. Even in the worst case the professor will probably continue to have good feelings towards you, which can help in the future if you work in related areas.

But there is no reason to wait for a decision. You can explore other opportunities in parallel with this. Decline only when you must.

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Your decision may depend a lot on when the PI might know for sure. Why don't you start by asking him how long that might take?

If either (1) there is a chance that he can secure the funding or (2) you might be willing to work even if there is no funding, then it makes sense to apply. This way, you retain the option of either accepting or declining later.

In other words, you simply postpone the more consequential decision: whether you will actually join the lab. Hopefully, by the time you have to make that decision, he will know whether the money is there.

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