I am a incoming first year grad student this fall. I have contacted prof A during when I was applying and talked to him during the visit. He strongly encouraged me to join his group.

After the visit, I emailed students in Prof A's group and other current grad students. I started feeling that his group atmosphere is not the best for me, and I don't want to join him anymore.

He is really nice and recently offered me an educational opportunity that is only shared by current students. I am grateful and I really want to take that course.

I feel guilty right now b/c he is so nice to me. But I don't want to spend my next 5 years in a group I don't like.

Is there any way that I can let the prof know I am not interested in his group anymore? Do I have to give up the course he offered? I am not assigned to prof A so I have the freedom to choose.

2 Answers 2


It sounds like you have not made any sort of commitment, so if that is the case then there should be absolutely no hard feelings by simply writing a polite email saying that you have decided not to do research with him.

If you wish to elucidate the reason, just say you don't feel that you'd fit in well with the group. He'll understand. You should not feel obligated to come up with an elaborate explanation.

It's hard to tell without more information on the course you speak of. If it's an ad-hoc, informal course taught by the professor himself then I can see how the investment of time may only be worthwhile for his own students. If it's a proper course that you pay fees for and earn credits, then perhaps it is reasonable to ask if you can still do it.

  • Thank you! It's a training course offered and paid by the grad program. A professor from another institution will teach it. Prof A forwarded me the email and encouraged me to take it. And only current students and faculties were on the mail list. I just think it is really nice for him to do it.
    – Lia91
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 13:10

Be professional about it, you don't want to cause any hard feelings as it won't really help you while you are at university.

If I was you, I would do the following things:

  1. Quickly note down a list of logical reasons why you think you would benefit more from not joining the group.
  2. Go find some other groups that you do like. Write down a list of the advantages of joining those groups.
  3. Now keep these points in mind and when you next see your professor just explain these points to him/her in a calm and professional manner.

Remember this is your degree we are talking about, its up to you what you want to do. Be bold, don't be shy to follow your interests, otherwise you'll end up board and frustrated that you didn't make the best choice earlier on.

Hope this helps.


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