I was recently offered a verbal offer to join a PhD lab group with a professor that I had taken classes with during my Master of Science program. I did well in the said professor's classes, and I was asked if I would be willing to do a PhD. I was also verbally offered that the professor would be willing to admit me to the lab group.

I sent my transcripts and other information as requested, and explained my grades which are not good during undergrad. However, the professor has also taught my classes during the Master's and I did fairly well in those classes, and demonstrated my research experience during those classes as well.

However, since the professor wants people with exceptional GPAs, I am not sure if my verbal offer (via email) would be rescinded. I have not heard back anything since my email explaining that I did mess up in undergrad, but I have improved and I am committed to tackling the PhD in the lab group.

I am very interested in joining the PhD, but I also don't want to get my hopes up (since a willingness to admit me which the professor mentioned via email is not a written, official offer for admission to the PhD lab group). However, I am not sure what to do, as I don't want to keep prodding on the subject matter and forcing the professor to give me a response when the professor may be busy/thinking about about me to the lab group.

What is a way I can approach this, in order to demonstrate a) I am very interested in joining the group to pursue my PhD and b) I am confident that I will have the capability and willingness to learn and improve?

1 Answer 1


(I see you are from New York) In the US, in most fields, it isn't typically possible for a professor to "admit" a student to a doctoral program and you must go through a process of application and evaluation. It is unlikely that such a process can be entirely bypassed, though having a sponsor can be helpful. You can ask them what your next steps should be.

Unless your field is an exception, you need to write a good application, including letters of recommendation that assure any evaluator of your potential for success.

Don't spend a lot of time apologizing for poor grades, but emphasize the positive. What is it that makes you a good candidate? Make sure you have letters that attest to that. Depending on possible regulations, this professor might be a letter writer.

  • Yes, "emphasize the positive" is always key when applying to any position.
    – ObscureOwl
    Commented Feb 6, 2021 at 23:26
  • I have emphasized my ability to overcome obstacles and persevere, but I understand the professor wants a) very competent people and b) people who have a history of high achievement. The professor did say initially (and very strongly) to join the lab group. The professor has said this after I took a couple courses during my Master's, and I demonstrated some capabilities of my own ideas/research as well as performance in the class. However, when I explained my undergrad grades (we were supposed to chat), I did not get any response back since when I sent it (it has been a few weeks).
    – qxzsilver
    Commented Feb 11, 2021 at 0:13
  • I'm afraid that the ship has sailed, and perhaps based on my undergrad grades, the professor does not want to re-neg on the previous offer of joining the research lab, and perhaps thinks I may not be cut out for a PhD based on my bad grades in undergrad. I can understand that point-of-view, but I also think the professor extending me an offer to join the lab shows the professor's belief in me (for whatever reason). I'm not sure how to respond (to this lack of response to my email explaining my undergrad grades).
    – qxzsilver
    Commented Feb 11, 2021 at 0:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .