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Offer Being Modified/Rescinded


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I was offered admission to a school/lab and have been in touch with the POI to let him know that I am waiting for responses from my other programs and hope to have an answer within the next couple of weeks.  I am waiting for a final decision from a program where I am waitlisted.  Today the POI let me know that he needs an answer ASAP and if I cannot provide one fairly immediately I will not forfeit my acceptance, but I will lose my place in his lab.

Does anyone know if this is contrary to protocol?  Have you ever heard of a similar situation?


Thank you for any information.

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I would not work with that person, anyway. I would contact the Graduate Advisor at the school and ask for help.


April 15 Resolution

Resolution Regarding Graduate Scholars, Fellows, Trainees, and Assistants

Acceptance of an offer of financial support* (such as a graduate scholarship, fellowship, traineeship, or assistantship) for the next academic year by a prospective or enrolled graduate student completes an agreement that both student and graduate school expect to honor. In that context, the conditions affecting such offers and their acceptance must be defined carefully and understood by all parties.

Students are under no obligation to respond to offers of financial support prior to April 15; earlier deadlines for acceptance of such offers violate the intent of this Resolution. In those instances in which a student accepts an offer before April 15 and subsequently desires to withdraw that acceptance, the student may submit in writing a resignation of the appointment at any time through April 15. However, an acceptance given or left in force after April 15 commits the student not to accept another offer without first obtaining a written release from the institution to which a commitment has been made. Similarly, an offer by an institution after April 15 is conditional on presentation by the student of the written release from any previously accepted offer. It is further agreed by the institutions and organizations subscribing to the above Resolution that a copy of this Resolution or a link to the URL should accompany every scholarship, fellowship, traineeship, and assistantship offer.

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Is this a clinical APA and/or PCSAS-accredited program? This sounds incredibly fishy to me. I second @statisticalsleuth's suggestion to contact the graduate advisor or DCT for assistance, as no POI should be pressuring you into making a decision before 4/15. Good luck- I'm sorry to hear that you have been put in this position!

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I think it's important to take a step back and analyze what's happening a little more carefully! 

It does not sound like what is happening is actually in violation of the resolution. The resolution says that the student cannot be forced to respond to a financial offer before April 15. But it does not cover things like position in a lab, or a specific assignment or anything like that. As long as the program will still extend the financial offer to the student until April 15, the resolution is upheld.

3 minutes ago, kittyprincess said:

 It is definitely an accredited program. The way it is being phrased to me skirts the issues above, I think. I was told I would not lose my acceptance, but I would lose my spot in his lab. 

(I wrote the above while this reply came in).

Anyways, I don't think the professor is doing anything wrong by asking a potential student to commit to their lab prior to April 15. The prof probably has a lot of people interested and they want to get the best student for their lab. Similarly, some programs have profs accept students into their lab way later (e.g. end of first year). What I mean to say here is that there's no convention or protocol that suggests prospective or current students should have the right to decide whatever lab they want to join at any time. Instead, it is normal in most fields for the program or the professor to dictate the decision timeline for joining research groups. It's very possible for students to be accepted into programs but not into any lab (or not into any lab they are interested in) which basically means the student has to change research interests or go elsewhere.

As for useful advice to this situation: I would not take the above advice to not work with someone because they want you to commit to their lab at this point. Again, this is a fair thing for professors to require because they are also committing resources and time to you. So, the first thing to do is to compare this particular lab with the program/lab you're waitlisted for. If, after comparison with the hypothetical offer, you still think this offer in hand is more desirable, then just accept it. Withdraw from the other offer.

Meanwhile, ask the other school for an update on your waitlist status (unless you have already asked very recently). Ask the question today, before end of business day. It might take them a day or two to get back to you, so ask first, then think about the hypothetical offer vs. real offer you have in hand. In your request/ask, you should be clear and say that you have another offer to work with a prof that requires you to commit to their lab ASAP and you would like to know 1) if they have a timeline on when they would make offers from the waitlist and 2) if they have any information on the likelihood of you getting an offer. Hopefully you will get an honest response, and it might be that "you're low on the waitlist and unlikely to get an answer before April 15" which may not be the answer you want but at least it makes the decision easier.

Going back to the decision of offer-in-hand vs. potential-offer-from-waitlist, if you decide that you might want the waitlisted offer more, then have a frank and honest discussion with the POI about your priorities and desires. Keep in mind that this conversation might result in you losing the place in his lab, but if you do nothing, you will lose the place in his lab anyways. The goal is to see if he would be willing to hold your place for a little bit longer (hopefully by now, you've heard from waitlisted school and know how long it might take to hear back from them). 

Having to choose between offers in hand and potential other offers out there is a fact of life and will be a tough choice you have to make at all future stages of your career, whether it's in academia or outside of academia. And try to see it from the other side: The POI is having the exact same student-in-hand vs other-potential-student dilemma. The POI is definitely very interested in having you join his lab (of course, otherwise why would he make the offer). However, the longer you wait, the less likely he is able to get another similarly good student if you say no. So, when you are asking for an extension, he has to decide whether to grant it to you and risk losing both you and the next student on his list, or he can potentially move onto the second student and get them to commit for sure (maybe the second student has already told him that he/she will commit if an offer is made).

Ultimately, remember that you are not the only one trying to find the optimal matchup. If you think you are a strong enough candidate that the POI will wait for you instead of falling onto their "backup" student, then asking for an extension is a good idea. But first try to determine if the waitlisted offer is worth the risk (e.g. if the waitlisted school says they don't expect waitlist offers to be made until on or after April 15, then that seems highly risky!). If so, then you might as well ask for an extension since the worse case of that is the prof saying no and rescinding the offer to join his lab, which is what would happen anyways if you wait too long.

Finally, because the POI said "respond ASAP" rather than "respond by [date]", it indicates to me that he might be willing to be a little flexible for now. It might be worth discussing with him how long he is willing to hold your spot in his lab. It might be that there is one spot and two students interested and he's going to say yes to the first student that responds. If this is the case, then it sounds very unlikely that he'll grant an extension and this would be very good information to know since it might inform how you want to proceed.

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