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I applied for a PhD position and got rejected. But the profs suggested I stay in touch (in the sense of regular meetings)—apparently I was not a terrible applicant. 

  1. Are such offers normal? 
  2. Are these offers initial signs of interest in mentorship?  
  3. How should I behave professionally?

After several experiences of being dismissed, ghosted, or treated unprofessionally following an application, I realized the academic norms are beyond my intuition scope. So here I am, asking :)

UPDATE: I participated in the meeting, and now I have my answer. At the moment, I'm involved in a project that overlaps with the profs' expertise. They were kind enough to offer me help with my current project, at least until their newly accepted candidate arrives. Thus, we talked about the status of the project and exchanged thoughts. They also told me to update them on my next stage if they can be of help.

A NOTE ON THE ACCEPTED ANSWER: I think not all of my questions can be answered. Specifically, the last one is highly case- and discipline-dependent. Nonetheless, I'm satisfied with the comments and the only answer I received in this post, which, apart from answering my first two questions, also highlights good points.

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    Is there any additional info? What exactly do they want to talk about during these "regular meetings"? What part of the world are you in?
    – cag51
    Mar 22, 2022 at 21:28
  • @cag51 I don't know. In fact, the topic of the meeting was my follow-up question if such meetings happen to be a norm, which seems not.
    – user01
    Mar 27, 2022 at 21:14
  • Are you sure they meant to have regular meetings and weren't just saying to keep in touch in a vague/polite way? I myself have used that phrase with little intention/expectation of actually keeping in touch (possibly it's a British English thing). Mar 28, 2022 at 17:11
  • @astronat well, that was my first impression until we set an appointment for the meeting. So, I guess yes.
    – user01
    Mar 28, 2022 at 19:21

1 Answer 1

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Actually, I find it rather unusual. It could possibly be explained by a mixed vote in an admissions committee where some members favored your acceptance and someone in favor remains interested.

I don't see any reason not to follow up. There doesn't seem to be any downside and might be an upside. Perhaps the person(s) could help you find a suitable position somewhere. Or maybe they have something else in mind and want to see how you respond before revealing it.

It is worth some effort, I think.

As user Snijderfrey notes in a comment, don't get exploited. You need to get as much as you give.

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  • "There doesn't seem to be any downside" I hope you are right, but have seen research group cultures which required months to years of underpaid work before being officially accepted as a PhD student. Therefore, without further info from OP, I would tend to be more reserved. Mar 22, 2022 at 22:11
  • @Snijderfrey, good catch. I've made an edit.
    – Buffy
    Mar 22, 2022 at 23:03
  • @Buffy I totally agree that there's no downside. Yet, I still don't know how to see this offer. A favor by them or an academic/professional interest.
    – user01
    Mar 27, 2022 at 21:15
  • @Snijderfrey, I'm pretty sure it won't be the case for me. Nevertheless, thanks for pointing this out. I will keep it in mind for the future.
    – user01
    Mar 27, 2022 at 21:17

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