If a talented PhD applicant names (in their statement of purpose) two or three professors at a department that they'd like to work with, and this student is accepted by the department, with all of the named professors equally desiring to hire this student into their respective research groups, then what lands up happening, typically?

A coin toss?

Give the student to an academically younger prof.?

  • 11
    What about "student chooses"?
    – Allure
    Dec 17, 2019 at 3:00
  • 4
    Or they go into the courtyard and sort it out like in the good old times - whoever integrates faster, gets the student... ;-) Dec 17, 2019 at 12:23
  • Barter Town has the answer. "Two profs enter! One prof leaves!"
    – puppetsock
    Dec 17, 2019 at 14:17
  • 1
    This is not usual, but in one economics department I know, the professors make closed bids for the right to choose a grad student first. So basically the one with the largest willingness (which is of course related to ability) to pay gets the student. But actually the student can work with both on the dissertation.
    – Dawn
    Dec 18, 2019 at 14:29

1 Answer 1


I think that you would ultimately have the final choice in the matter. The supervisor is somebody that you have to work with for 4+ years, so you better make sure you choose the one you think you can handle for that period of time.

  • But how will you decide that you can handle someone who you don't know for that duration? Most of the times, things are superficial and poorly perceived.
    – Coder
    Dec 17, 2019 at 5:27
  • In our system, its like getting a job. If two profs have jobs to offer, then the student decides which offer to take. Dec 17, 2019 at 12:51
  • @Coder Heh heh. You go on dates with the profs, like "The Bachelor."
    – puppetsock
    Dec 17, 2019 at 14:18
  • @Coder You should reach out to former students of each supervisor, that is one of the best ways you can find out what type of professor you would be dealing with. Profs usually have a section of their CV in which they list past PhD students, a quick Google search will let you figure out if you have the right person, then you establish the communication. Dec 17, 2019 at 18:54

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