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As stated above, is it acceptable to email many people requesting mentorships at once; hypothetically, if two people were to say yes, is it okay to say something like "I apologize, but someone has already accepted me?" Thank you!

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Yes, in fact this is very normal. People (both students & supervisors) know the chances of any one opportunity happening is low, hence students apply to multiple positions at the same time.

See the list of Academia.SE questions on "decline offer" for examples.

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    Also true of course for any employment or similar application. Any other course of action leaves you too vulnerable and takes too much time.
    – Buffy
    Feb 21 at 15:18
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Yes, it is acceptable

It is perfectly reasonable and normal to approach several people about the possibility of them mentoring you. A common way of doing this is to make your email enquiry both enthusiastic and non-commital (a bit like a first date)! You might choose to use words like "explore" and "sound-out" and "know your thoughts" . Something along the lines of "I'm exploring the possibilities for obtaining a mentorship [at the conclusion of my studies/in the last six-months of my PhD/etc]. [Insert personal background and interests here]. I'd be very pleased to hear whether you might consider me as a prospective mentee".

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  • I'll note that being openly non-commital makes you sound unenthusiastic. This may increase your chances of being rejected. You don't have to lie and say you'll definitely respond to an offer, but words like "explore" strike me as less than ideal.
    – Brian
    Feb 26 at 14:53

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