I emailed Professor X to express my interest in his research area and politely asked if he will be taking on new master students. First, I got a brief reply:

Send me your transcript and any papers/reports you have

So I emailed back to him with my transcript and some reports and he asked

Did you apply for any external fellowship/scholarship or anything else?

I said I haven't applied for any fellowships. Then I haven't gotten a reply from the professor for a week. Why would Professor X ask the second question? Since I said I haven't applied for fellowships, could it possibly have changed his mind and decided to not take me as his student?

  • A week really isn't that long in academic time: Professor X might be busy (with teaching, research, meeting a funding application or paper submission deadline...). It's even possible that he is looking into what local funding is available for students? I'd recommend waiting a bit longer.
    – user115868
    Jan 26, 2020 at 21:22
  • 3
    You don't say why you think he actually needed to "change his mind." Nothing you said seems to imply he agreed to take you on. And yes, wait some more. The best case is that he is reviewing your papers, etc.
    – Buffy
    Jan 26, 2020 at 22:56
  • 1
    Where in the world are you?
    – gerrit
    Jan 27, 2020 at 8:29
  • I applied for master program (thesis) in Canadian university. I am domestic applicant
    – Ted
    Jan 27, 2020 at 22:46

1 Answer 1


It's "standard" (depends on where you are applying to) for graduate students to be paid a stipend. The money comes either from the department or from the professor's own funds (this in turn is part of the reason why professors apply for grants - to hire students/postdocs).

The professor is asking you if you've applied for any external fellowships or scholarships because:

  1. If you have, you've shown some knowledge of how academia works, and you've made some effort to secure funding for yourself.
  2. If you were successful, you'd effectively be "free" - the professor doesn't need to use his/her own funds to pay for you.

It goes without saying that if you can say "yes I've applied", or even better "yes I've been awarded", it boosts your chances of the professor agreeing to take you on. Conversely, if the answer is no to both, it will definitely not help your application, and it's possible he cannot take you on if he doesn't have enough funding.

  • 1
    Interesting. The scholarship/fellowship he referred to actually required to submit a research proposal which is, in general, not expected from people who just started to apply for Master program.
    – Ted
    Jan 27, 2020 at 4:34
  • 1
    Whether this is standard strongly depends on region. My professor declined to take on a self-funded PhD student because he didn't want to have a group in which some PhD students were employed and financially well, and others were self-funded and economically struggling, while doing the same type of work.
    – gerrit
    Jan 27, 2020 at 8:30

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