I applied for a PhD position and I was invited to give a talk about my Master thesis, but I didn't get the position, because:

  1. Maybe my talk wasn't as good at it could be- I wasn't ready with my thesis then and I made some mistakes. I guess I could work on that.
  2. My current thesis advisor probably didn't give me good references, although I'm not sure about that. There is nothing I can do about that- try to explain the disagreements I had with him to the committee? No one asked me about that, so I won't get that chance in the future. But I could ask someone else to write a reference letter for me.

My question is:

Should I apply to the institution again (in few months or 1-2 years) when they have another open position? How will it be perceived?

My main concern is that the application will be reviewed by the same people I talked to, the people who took part in my seminar. Will I be allowed to give another talk on the same topic?

Also, the person who wrote to me, didn't suggest that I apply there in the future.

I'm not going to get more experience in research, because I work in a company, but I can have some publicaitons.


  1. This is not a duplicate of this question, because I didn't withdraw my application- I was rejected.
  2. This is not a duplicate of this question, because I was invited to the university, I had a talk with the group members and I gave a talk there. My experience isn't a problem, its the general impression, my knowledge (?).
  3. This is not a duplicate of this question - see my explanation for the second question.
  • In which country is this?
    – Niko
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 21:24
  • 4
    If it is true that you did not get a good reference letter by your former adviser, it's going to be hard to be accepted anywhere - be that fair or not. So in order to understand better where you might be lacking, and how successful other attempts to land a Ph.D. position might be, I'd talk to them first. Even if there were some disagreements, I'd think they'd be willing to give you some feedback - if only to maybe tell you that they believe you should focus on industry, which would likely mean that the recommendation is, in fact, poor. Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 21:25
  • @Niko, I can't tell you - I'd hate it if I got recognized by my advisor or someone from the university. But it's in Europe, if it helps.
    – UpsideDown
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 21:48
  • @gnometorule, I think I know what my advisor would tell me- I wasn't efficient (and there were some problems related to that). But he didn't give me clear instructions and I had to keep bugging him to answer my questions. For a reason I can't discuss, it was really hard. Also, I'm aware I didn't do as good job as I could if I could work on a topic I liked (in short).
    – UpsideDown
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 21:55

2 Answers 2


If I were in your position, instead of submitting a 'cold' re-application, I would first contact the committee and ask them for advice about what I could do to improve my prospects of being accepted as a PhD student. I have seen people do this a few times, and the strategy receives positive responses from faculty; but of course you will then have to do the work and actually improve on the things they suggest.

Re-applying with exactly the same material will probably not get you anywhere. However, if you get advice from the committee and/or from other people who are experienced in the field about what to improve or what skills/experience to acquire, and if you can demonstrate the results well, it will be noticed.


It is, most likely, a waste of your time and that of everyone else as well: If they rejected you once, what do you think would make them reconsider? The reality is that they probably didn't reject you for only one reason (talk, one letter missing), but for a number of reasons. It's unlikely that bringing one more letter would make them forget about the talk, or whatever else it is that they didn't like about your application.

It is true that that may not be fair. But it's just how humans work: Once you've made your decision that someone doesn't meet your expectation, there doesn't just have to be a small amount of extra information to change the outcome. You'd have to be able to demonstrate some extraordinary progress for people to be willing to change their perception of your application.

  • 1
    My take-away from this answer would be: "You'd have to be able to demonstrate some extraordinary progress for people to be willing to change their perception of your application."
    – mbaytas
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 6:57
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    I don't agree. We have hired people that we had not hired for a different position when they re-applied, because they were a better fit for the new project. OP was invited to give a talk, so they passed initial screening. OP might see the reasons for not getting the position too pessimistic.
    – user9482
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 8:41
  • 3
    Not to mention PhD positions are often done in "rounds", such that OP maybe didn't get the position because there just so happened to be an excellent applicant that year that pushed everyone down in the ranks. Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 8:55
  • All possible reasons. But the rejected candidate would still have to overcome the issue of (subjective) perception that comes with having been rejected once already. Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 2:55

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