I applied to a university in Canada for a MSc. As part of their requirements, I needed to have a supervisor in order to be granted admission to the program. So I did contact a supervisor and he took me in as his student with the condition that I brought my own funding. I said yes. However, the university has not yet offered me admission, I am still waiting for their decision.

This was not my only option of course and last week I got accepted to a MSc/PhD program in a Max Planck university in Germany. Because it is much better ranked and students are given a monthly stipend, I took the offer because I thought it was a better option for me.

How do I reject now the professor who accepted me on Canada? Should I tell him the truth? Is this a very bad move on my side?

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    you didn't do any unethical action although that was better to not saying yes in hurry. BTW let him know that you will not work him but no need to describe the whole story
    – user35129
    Mar 24, 2016 at 16:03
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    There's no need to be ashamed of your decision. Anyone reasonably reasonable (excuse the tautology) understands, that as someone at the beginning of a career, these decisions will heavily influence a good part of your life, so you're in your right to be picky (as your career advances, it'll probably become harder to back out of agreements)./ontopic. Offtopic: The MPS is cutting back on funding for MSc, though PhD students are funded. If possible, try to negotiate a contract, not a stipend. They are different, and a proper contract offers much better conditions in Germany.
    – LLlAMnYP
    Mar 24, 2016 at 17:11

3 Answers 3


Skip the "better-ranked" part (don't be petty); say you couldn't hold up your end of the bargain - to find your own funding -, and Max Planck offered a fully-funded position. I don't foresee any issues or grievances after a short, to the point mail to this sort.

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    Very diplomatic. However, bear in mind that the prof may decide to offer a stipend then, to counter MPI's offer. Mar 24, 2016 at 21:30
  • @Captain: Good point, but either that makes a difference, and OP does prefer to go to Canada then; or you can always react "oh no - now I've already firmly committed to MP..:what a shame" (given that it was based on securing funding, the original offer was conditional; MP's isn't, so you can weasel something like that). In any case, I doubt that's going to happen, although it might of course. Mar 24, 2016 at 21:50
  • @CaptainEmacs I hadn't thought about the possibility of them offering a stipend! Thank you.
    – LenaMi
    Mar 26, 2016 at 13:12
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    @gnometorule yes jajaja I just mentioned the "better-ranked" part in this forum. I would not mention that on an email to either the professor or the university. Thank you, I was really worried about me being forever "branded" as someone whose word is not trustworthy or something like that.
    – LenaMi
    Mar 26, 2016 at 13:15

Do inform the professor as soon as possible. I have had students sign on with me, and then disappear on extremely short notice. Since I only advise a set number of students a term, I had already rejected other students because of workload. I'm not mad when people let me know what is up as timely as possible.


I followed the advice of the answers above and I sent the corresponding emails to the professor and the program administration office and everything went great!

The professor just answered with a short "thank you" and a " wish you all the best", which is a lot better than what I had expected (i.e. a very angry response!).

The program administration office also thanked me for letting them know as soon as possible and even asked me what were my reasons for not choosing their university.

To anyone who has the same question as me, be sure to let them know about your decision as soon as possible.

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