I spoke to a prospective PhD advisor who would like me to apply to his program. He made it clear that admission is not guaranteed, but since our general interests align, he suggested I apply. He said he would be interested in working with me, since my previous research is complementary to his current work, and I worked with his research advisor. I also really like the direction of his research and see myself working in that domain.

However, I have now changed my mind about applying to the program (deadline is in a month) because I am going through mental health issues and I do not feel prepared to apply. I also initially wanted to apply after an undergraduate degree. But now, I want to finish my Master's program before I apply (I am currently in the first year of a 2 year program) since the MSc will help bolster my application, especially because it's a competitive program and I have a non-traditional background. It was a difficult decision but I believe it is the right one.

How do I let the professor know this without souring my relationship with him (since I really would like to work with him, just not now, and I would like to emphasize this)? I have had a meeting with him and his grad student, and I don't want it to seem like I wasted their time. How common is it for meetings with prospective students to not lead to applications? I also feel it's a bad idea to be explicit about my mental health struggles (not that he isn't a nice person), so I don't know how much detail I can go into.

1 Answer 1


There is no reason for it to sour the relationship. Just say you are not able to apply in this cycle, but maintain strong interest for the future. I wouldn't raise any health issues, but saying that you need time to finish the MS would be fine.

Since things were pretty informal, there is no reason for worry that I can see.

Maybe give them an update mid cycle that you are ready to apply and would like to work with them as previously discussed.

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