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I had recently e-mailed a professor asking for opportunities in his lab. He responded as follows -Email

Email content:

Dear [redacted]

Thanks for your interest in my lab. My lab is planning to hire multiple Ph.D. students who will start in the fall of 2021, and the application window is going to be this Winter.

It's good that you have some relevant research experiences, and I encourage you to apply to my lab at [redacted]. When you submit your application to the department, please mention my name in your personal statement. Also, please let me know when you submit the application.

Best, [redacted]

Can I take this as a positive response? Does that mean he will take me in if I apply? How do I respond back to him?

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  • 17
    To me this is a standard response, and in particular it means what it says but doesn't mean anything more than what it says. Oct 16 '20 at 1:01
  • 5
    If what you are asking is "should I keep looking for positions?" The answer is yes. You don't have a position until you have it, i.e. sign a contract. So just don't stop looking for one, just in case. Oct 16 '20 at 11:02
  • 1
    That message was clearly meant to be encouraging but nothing more. Oct 18 '20 at 0:16
  • I would say it means it's better than random. Go for it, but do not expect it to happen if there is lots of competition. Jun 21 at 23:48
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The professor's asking to be kept informed, which is certainly a positive sign because he's interested enough to want to know what you're doing. At the very least he's not outright rejecting you.

On the other hand, there is no guarantee he will take you on until you actually receive the offer letter.

I don't think there's much more to say other than thank him, reaffirm that you will submit an application (if you are planning to do so) and say you will keep him informed when you do.

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That's a mildly positive response. You have a chance if you apply, but it's impossible to make any more qualified predictions about your success chances, because they entirely depend on who else applies.

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Every program handles admissions slightly differently, sometimes even within the same university.

Some allow faculty to select their own students, with very light oversight from the rest of the university.

However, other programs make admissions decisions via a committee, which chooses a cohort of students based on the applicants' qualifications and the program's needs and capabilities. For example, the committee might want to ensure that wet and dry-lab approaches are both represented in the cohort, perhaps with a skew that matches future TA needs. This is particularly common in programs where one does "rotations" and formally chooses an advisor in the 2nd or 3rd year.

In these departments, no individual professor can unilaterally offer a place to someone, no matter how good they may be. However, professors can advocate for their preferred candidates in these departments. For example, if you were ranked in the middle of the pack overall, the prof might argue that you should nevertheless be admitted because you're a perfect fit for his particular lab.

It sounds like the professor is offering to do this for you. This does not necessarily guarantee you a spot--other professors might make even more compelling cases for their own preferred applicants--but it is certainly a positive sign. It is therefore important that you mention this professor by name somewhere in your personal statement. Personal statements often conclude with a section describing how your interests and skills mesh with the program's focus, and this would be a natural place to do so. Likewise, follow up by email once you've submitted your application so he can bring your application to the committee's attention.

You should, of course, continue to submit applications elsewhere too. Good luck!

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  • Exactly. Depending on the admission rules in that country/university, the professor might have zero say on whether you get funding for the PhD or not. Oct 17 '20 at 14:29
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This is mildly positive as was said. Now you have to seal the deal. I would say that you now should visit the lab. However with covid-19 and all. Find some way to show interest. Good luck.

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