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I had a PhD interview (bioinformatics) a month ago. I was a master student during the time the interview happened and I am still a student.

During the interview I was asked when I officially want to submit my thesis as this is important to start doing the PhD. I told them the date I planned to submit my thesis.

I did not hear back from them after a month. Recently, I got an email from them indicating that they have not made the final decision yet. In the same email they are asking this question again, which is "When will you exactly submit your thesis? And as a proof can you send it to us before we make our final decision?".

I was also told that there were 13 other candidates and I felt like I had no chance as they would probably prefer somebody who has already completed their masters.

Does their last email imply that they are interested in hiring me but they want to be sure that I am not lying about finishing my thesis soon? Or is it just a normal process and does not indicate anything? In other words, am I right thinking that "they would not bother and directly reject me if they were not interested in hiring me"?

Also, my thesis is not yet fully complete (but I still plan to submit it at the date I promised to them). Would sending them the thesis too late cause my application to be rejected? What should I do in this case to increase the chance of acceptance as much as possible?

Update based on the comments: The PhD project starts in early October. I plan to submit my thesis in September. And they know that this is when I will submit the thesis. The start of the PhD cannot be delayed.

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    Please add a country tag! In Germany the answer is: A Master's degree (including thesis) is necessary to start a PhD.
    – Dirk
    Jul 13, 2021 at 20:31
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    In theory, your PhD should be completely separate from your Masters. In fact, you shouldn't need a masters in any field to be a Doctor of Philosophy at all.
    – Marxos
    Jul 14, 2021 at 0:22
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    @Dirk the country the PhD position is at also requires completed MS thesis prior to starting PhD. But I will submit the thesis before the PhD project starts.
    – bird
    Jul 14, 2021 at 5:49
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    @thedoctor That's country-dependent...
    – Dirk
    Jul 14, 2021 at 11:15
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    There are always exceptions, but I think that this question is about the general case.
    – Dirk
    Jul 14, 2021 at 13:48

2 Answers 2

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This seems more like they have a need for someone to start at some date certain and that the MS needs to be completed prior to that.

My suggestion, if you are worried about whether they think you are being honest with them is to put them in touch with your advisor who can give them assurance about your progress. I suggest this since you seem to be having correspondence with them generally. Give your advisor a heads-up about their concerns and your progress toward completion.

I would rather think they are quite interested or else they wouldn't make the effort to continue the conversation and would just choose another.

But, in the US, at least, applying for doctoral positions while still a student is the normal thing to do. Otherwise people would have a year or more gap between earning the MS and starting the doctoral studies.

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Sure, of course it does, at least on the margins. If they have one spot and two nearly identical applications save for that detail, they will probably go for the one with an accepted thesis. Now, it's pretty rare to actually have nearly two identical candidates, usually there are pros and cons to each and in the end it is a judgement call that can't be fully justified by pure objectivity (if such a thing even exists when it comes to applying for positions).

If I had to guess, they have a more preferred candidate that they are waiting to hear an answer from, but that is a complete guess on my part. For me though, the length of time of no contact and getting this in an email:

"When will you exactly submit your thesis? And as a proof can you send it to us before we make our final decision?".

... would make me believe that I'm not their most desired candidate. That certainly doesn't mean it's anywhere close to impossible that they chose you, but I would be downward adjusting my priors at that point.

But really there's no point in stressing yourself out about it, all you can do is complete your thesis as soon as possible and get it to them. If you think it's even close to a being presentable, I would email them a draft so they get an idea of where you are headed.

Note: this is from an American perspective where it is not at all unusual to get accepted into a PhD program sans MS. An alternative explanation is that they really do like you the best but a completed thesis is a necessary box to check before you can be accepted.

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