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Should I decline my Ph.D. offer and re-apply?


Stella_***
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I was just wondering if anyone ever declined a fully-funded Ph.D. offer and chose to re-apply? I have a BA in Comparative Literature and decided to apply only to Ph.D. programs. In retrospect, I probably over-estimated myself and only got in a few programs that are on the lower end of my list. I know this sounds really bad and that a lot of people would be really happy to go to the programs I got accepted into, but a little part of me wonders if I should work on my apps and re-apply next year/get an MA first. Most of my professors are against it - no need to go into debt and do a masters that's not too hard to get in. I'm just not sure. I'm afraid I won't like the program, and am worried about placement...any suggestion/comment would be helpful!

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 3/26/2018 at 6:55 PM, rising_star said:

Could you go to one of the programs and leave with a master's if you decide it isn't the right fit for you?

Thanks for asking!

Yes, UC Santa Barbara grants an MA along the way, but it just doesn't seem ethical and I want to avoid that. Especially since their program doesn't seem like the right fit after I visited (a professor I was interested in working with thinks she's not the best advisor for me), so right now I'm deciding between Univ. of Southern California, U Oregon, and an MA in East Asian Studies at Duke (which would hopefully make me more competitive in two years)

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On 3/27/2018 at 11:27 PM, Sparkybob said:

If you think you can make your profile a lot more attractive in the 7 months or so until next application cycle it can make sense to try again next year. That was going to be my plan until a better school took me off their waitlist. 

I don't think 7 months is enough, which is why I'm thinking about getting an MA in East Asian Studies. A little background info: I grew up in China, Germany, and Australia and went to college in the US studying English and German lit. I want to study Chinese and German modern lit and thought my high school classes on Chinese as well as being ethnically Chinese would be enough, but multiple school has referred my app to their German Dept. This is why I want to have some upper-level coursework in EAS

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On 4/6/2018 at 2:46 PM, ElaineX said:

How does one make their profile a lot more attractive? Thanks.

I asked a professor at UCLA who I was interested in working with. He said nowadays a lot of their applicants have masters from top schools, and that publications and conference presentations would help, too. Hope this helps! :)

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25 minutes ago, ranny820 said:

I don't think 7 months is enough, which is why I'm thinking about getting an MA in East Asian Studies. A little background info: I grew up in China, Germany, and Australia and went to college in the US studying English and German lit. I want to study Chinese and German modern lit and thought my high school classes on Chinese as well as being ethnically Chinese would be enough, but multiple school has referred my app to their German Dept. This is why I want to have some upper-level coursework in EAS

Well if you did get into lower tier programs then I don't think you are that far way from getting into better schools. Slight improvement in GRE scores, maybe one poster presentations or even improving your personal statement can push you a bit.

 

Wish you the best of luck!

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If I was in your place I would keep the Phd. You can always MA out if you don't feel like it is something you want to do. Funded programs are so rare and you don't know if you will get such an opportunity again, especially with a master that is much harder to get funded. The good thing is that if you are staying in university, you can improve your applications at the same time, work with professors, publish and present.  Going to the phd and strengthening your application are not mutually exclusive.

 

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9 minutes ago, Sparkybob said:

Well if you did get into lower tier programs then I don't think you are that far way from getting into better schools. Slight improvement in GRE scores, maybe one poster presentations or even improving your personal statement can push you a bit.

 

Wish you the best of luck!

Thanks! I don't think we do poster presentations in literature but yeah I agree presentations would help! :P  Also my GRE score wasn't the best

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6 hours ago, ranny820 said:

...so right now I'm deciding between Univ. of Southern California, U Oregon, and an MA in East Asian Studies at Duke (which would hopefully make me more competitive in two years)

Is the MA offer fully funded? If so, and given what you said to another poster, that may be a solid option given your career goals. It would give you time to take coursework in Chinese and on Chinese literature (though double-check about the course offerings and the departments you can take courses in before committing), as well as time to retake the GRE and potentially present at conferences (at least on a regional level even if not on the national level). 

That said, I would also gain some perspective from advisors/mentors in your field about your prospects after getting a PhD from USC or UO.

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5 hours ago, ranny820 said:

Also my GRE score wasn't the best

 I am switching from Political Science to History (field is East Asia, with a focus on modern Japan (and maybe China)). Last year I didn't get into any of the 6 PhD programs I applied to, but this year I got in 4 out of 7, including 2 (or 3?) top programs. My GRE score wasn't the best either - 161 V, 168 Q, 4.5 (my first and only try) but I was strongly advised against retaking GRE. So, instead, I spent the 7 months in between two application cycles improving my SOP, writing sample, and getting a lot more research related experiences. I am not sure if this applies to Literature as well, but I am under the impression that as long as your GRE is not bad (e.g. I was told as long as my V is over 160 I'd be fine), you may not have to invest extra time (and money!) to retake it. :)  That said, I am Chinese myself, English is my second language and Japanese my third, so our situations might be a bit different...

 

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17 hours ago, AnUglyBoringNerd said:

 I am switching from Political Science to History (field is East Asia, with a focus on modern Japan (and maybe China)). Last year I didn't get into any of the 6 PhD programs I applied to, but this year I got in 4 out of 7, including 2 (or 3?) top programs. My GRE score wasn't the best either - 161 V, 168 Q, 4.5 (my first and only try) but I was strongly advised against retaking GRE. So, instead, I spent the 7 months in between two application cycles improving my SOP, writing sample, and getting a lot more research related experiences. I am not sure if this applies to Literature as well, but I am under the impression that as long as your GRE is not bad (e.g. I was told as long as my V is over 160 I'd be fine), you may not have to invest extra time (and money!) to retake it. :)  That said, I am Chinese myself, English is my second language and Japanese my third, so our situations might be a bit different...

 

Thank you and congrats on your acceptances! Yeah my GRE scores are similar, and my advisor also said that it shouldn't matter too much. Thanks for your advice! May I ask what kind of research experiences did you get? I am currently taking a gap year working as a research assistant to a Chinese modernist in my field, but it seems like in the humanities it's generally hard to get that kind of experience

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On 4/8/2018 at 5:32 PM, Charlie Moon said:

If I was in your place I would keep the Phd. You can always MA out if you don't feel like it is something you want to do. Funded programs are so rare and you don't know if you will get such an opportunity again, especially with a master that is much harder to get funded. The good thing is that if you are staying in university, you can improve your applications at the same time, work with professors, publish and present.  Going to the phd and strengthening your application are not mutually exclusive.

 

Hmm several of my professors (secretly) suggested the same. I guess my question is about the ethics of doing so, especially at a school that offers me fellowship (meaning I don't have to teach). My field is so small and I feel like if I don't have a great reason such as changing fields, I shouldn't get out and reapply :s

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3 hours ago, ranny820 said:

Thank you and congrats on your acceptances! Yeah my GRE scores are similar, and my advisor also said that it shouldn't matter too much. Thanks for your advice! May I ask what kind of research experiences did you get? I am currently taking a gap year working as a research assistant to a Chinese modernist in my field, but it seems like in the humanities it's generally hard to get that kind of experience

I’m really interested in the intersection of gender and international politics, and in women’s roles in the transformation of societies, so I have been working as a researcher for an NGO with a focus on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in current UN politics. Meanwhile, my supervisor and colleagues at work are very supportive of my academic career, so they’ve been sending me to international conferences, workshops, and summits related to gender and women’s rights, which really helped with expanding my horizons. :) Given that I don’t have any degree in History (My BA and MA are in international politics and I’ve also got an MPP...oops!), it’s really difficult to find a research job working for/with historians directly, so I had to be creative and take “detours”. :P

Congrats on the research assistant position! I didn’t realize this, but a gap year really helped me put things into perspectives. I love my NGO job and would happily make it a lifetime career, so now it’s like... I know I’m doing my PhD bc I love academic research more than policy oriented research, not bc it’s my only option. Does this make sense?

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17 hours ago, ranny820 said:

Hmm several of my professors (secretly) suggested the same. I guess my question is about the ethics of doing so, especially at a school that offers me fellowship (meaning I don't have to teach). My field is so small and I feel like if I don't have a great reason such as changing fields, I shouldn't get out and reapply :s

I don't think this is a question of ethics because a lot changes over the course of the 2-5 years you could be there. Funding moves around, life happens, and you may even find that you would prefer to stay once you get through the first hoops. 

Whether you go or not, don't decline the offer. Ask for a deferred acceptance or other options. Then you will still have a "safety" for the next round of applications. I've seen it happen before when people come in with a better application, but apply on an off year, and there are fewer funded spots available. 

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10 minutes ago, joneska7 said:

I am in same situation. I plan to reapply later, possibly after a master's. 

Good luck! It's good to know there's someone like me out there. It's tough cuz a lot of people don't understand why I might decline 5 years of funding + 3 years of fellowship

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14 minutes ago, Mikkaela B said:

I don't think this is a question of ethics because a lot changes over the course of the 2-5 years you could be there. Funding moves around, life happens, and you may even find that you would prefer to stay once you get through the first hoops. 

Whether you go or not, don't decline the offer. Ask for a deferred acceptance or other options. Then you will still have a "safety" for the next round of applications. I've seen it happen before when people come in with a better application, but apply on an off year, and there are fewer funded spots available. 

Thanks for your advice! And you're right a lot can change! Last year this time I was busy looking for jobs in global development haha

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