I spent one summer working in a research lab during my undergraduate degree. Now that I am in 4th-year and applying to graduate schools, my former supervisor has asked if I would like to join his group.

I had an enjoyable experience in his group, but I think my talents lie towards the theoretical side of my field (physics). To be perfectly honest, I think that it is more likely I will choose something other than his group. At the same time, I don't want to "rule out" the possibility of working with him just yet because I can see myself being happy with either scenario (his group or somewhere else).

So my questions are:

How do I politely tell him that I am interested, but I want to consider other options too? How transparent should I be with my interest in theoretical research over experiment? Would it be best if he knew that his group would probably not be my first choice?

2 Answers 2


Just explain to him what you have said here (in greater detail, of course). If you are applying to graduate school, you are really going to want a strong recommendation from this professor. You can't get that without giving a clear statement of what you are planning to do. The professor should not be offended; faculty members deal with these kinds of situations regularly.


Be honest, but be diplomatic. Tell him that you'd be interested, but you've also found some other groups that you're looking into, and it's too early for you to make a straight decision one way or the other.

If he continues to pressure you, you can also take the monetary approach -- tell him that you're waiting to hear back regarding financial packages from the various schools, and you won't commit until you've got a firm idea of what your stipend/funding/responsibilities would look like.

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