I had an interview with a potential Ph.D. supervisor, and along the way, he asked whether I am intending to apply to other similar Ph.D. programs? I said: Yes, but that's because I don't know how admissions work.

Was that a good answer? What is supposed to be done in such situations?

Also, when the professor says: Ok, I will work with you to write the best competitive statement of purpose. Does that mean he is going to accept you?

4 Answers 4


What the potential supervisor really wants to know is whether he/she is your first choice. By "first choice", I mean "if we made you a fully funded offer but you also received other fully funded offers, would you accept our offer?". If the answer is yes, then he/she may be significantly more willing to help you write a strong application (not just for the position itself, but also for funding). Having said that, a reasonable supervisor would understand that people may change their mind as more information becomes available or if another place makes a significantly better offer in terms of funding.

Your answer ("Yes, but that's because I don't how admissions work.") is not ideal, but a reasonable supervisor should be understanding of the fact that many applicants do not really know the system very well.


"I will work with you to write the best competitive statement of purpose"

That is not an offer of a place, but it is a good sign. It means what it says. The prospective supervisor is offering to review your application to his/her institution and give detailed advice on your statement of purpose. This may be very useful, and implies strongly that the prospective supervisor thinks you are a serious candidate. But he/she may be keeping his/her options open in case a stronger candidate applies. Or it may be that decisions on admission are not his/her sole prerogative (the exact process depends on the country and institution).

  • Perfect! What would you advise the answer could've been? Also, would you advise I contact the professor again to illustrate my preference for him?
    – V_head
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 2:06

The obvious answer to the first is that you will apply until you are accepted into a suitable and interesting position. For the second, it has no implication other than that he is interested. He is willing to give you advice, but your admission can depend on several things. The SoP is only one of those.

In some cases, depending of place and field, the professor may not be directly involved in decisions to accept you. But nothing is assured until you get an acceptance letter.


Honestly I would try to keep the supervisor talking retrieving as much information as possible before ever making any assumptions that could harm my first impression. That being said. There is a missing verb in the phrase “I don’t how “in the original statement.

  • Sometimes it s not possible, when he takes you by surprise. Saying "No" is really not going to seem normal. Who commits to one program when applying to graduate school?!
    – V_head
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 14:22

I agree that no one should limit themselves to one option. I might implied my answer in a manner as the only format rhetorically speaking. But allow me to give an alternative method. Before any interview practice a psychological path in first impression by the what if factors yes I do understand nerves and how they play a role. But if we educate ourselves before we fear less. Just a suggestion not saying I always do this myself but my goal is to help. We all need to believe in ourselves and give our brothers and sisters a boost of CONFIDENCE. Thank for any feedback

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