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Ethics of Withdrawing


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Hey all!

I'm in a bit of a dilemma (as are most people on this forum right now, I assume)--I was accepted into two great Masters programs in Europe, and because of weird timing and issues with reference letters, ended up accepting a spot in my second choice school before hearing back from my first choice school. I'm wondering about the ethics of withdrawing from my second choice school--I don't want to be a jerk, or inadvertently make enemies of anyone in my field, but I do want to go to my first choice school!

Also, I was wondering about the April 15 deadline--does that apply to European schools as well as American ones?

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Well, I think you already know exactly what the considerations are for making this decision. You've given your word to School A, but now there's a development and you want to go to School B. You understand that this will not make School A happy; but we don't know if this means that they lose funding, or can't recruit students they wanted to get, or alternatively if they can easily fill the spot and there will be no harm done. Different programs are structured in different ways and the source of funding is also a consideration. Since you can't know this, you just have to decide based on the information available to you. On the on harm no foul side, you can just change your decision and all is well. The question to ask yourself is the worst case scenario: suppose you burn that bridge and it's irreparable. Then what? Is it worth it? That's a question that may have implications for future conferences or publications or even jobs, or just having someone who's pissed at you out there. There's no way for us to know. 

21 minutes ago, rosali said:

Also, I was wondering about the April 15 deadline--does that apply to European schools as well as American ones?

No, that's only relevant for US schools, and only for funded offers there. It doesn't extend to European schools. 

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7 minutes ago, fuzzylogician said:

No, that's only relevant for US schools, and only for funded offers there. It doesn't extend to European schools. 

This is totally implied, but just to be clear- it also only applies to schools who have signed the CGS resolution in the US- not all have.

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@fuzzylogician Thanks for your response--it's given me more concrete things to consider than my nebulous "is this just not a cool move, or is it really a terrible thing to do" question. I'm fairly certain that the school won't lose funding (I got a partial scholarship, but it's internal, and I haven't accepted it--I assume it will go to someone else), and admissions is rolling until June. I don't think I'd be burning any bridges as it's a taught Masters' program, and  my contact with professors in my department has been minimal.

I don't have anyone I can talk to about this in my day-to-day life, so thanks again--I really appreciate your help!

**Edit: I do want to add that I was given a two-week deadline to accept School A's offer, and was unable to get an extension due to offices being closed for Christmas break

Edited by rosali
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45 minutes ago, rosali said:

@fuzzylogician Thanks for your response--it's given me more concrete things to consider than my nebulous "is this just not a cool move, or is it really a terrible thing to do" question. I'm fairly certain that the school won't lose funding (I got a partial scholarship, but it's internal, and I haven't accepted it--I assume it will go to someone else), and admissions is rolling until June. I don't think I'd be burning any bridges as it's a taught Masters' program, and  my contact with professors in my department has been minimal.

You're welcome! In this kind of case it sounds to me like you should do what's best for you. If it's a Masters, and especially one you hope will lead to a PhD, pick the one that's right for you, not the one that pressured you more. Since you're in linguistics, if you want to PM to ask more specific questions (like, is person X/program Y likely to be upset by this), I'm happy to try to answer. Depending on the subfield you're applying in, I may be able to help with more details. 

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If either of these schools are in the UK, rest assured that the April 15th deadline does not apply and also that it's fairly common for people to accept master's places then back out later and wouldn't be cause to burn any bridges. Feel free to PM me if you have any questions about the British system (afraid I can't answer for rest of Europe though!)

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I agree with @NeverTooMuchTea! The mentality of Phd and MA's applications in Europe are very different from the US. 

I was accepted into a bunch of Ma's in Europe (Linguistics, in the UK and the Netherlands). I accepted three of them, and then decided later on where I wanted to attend, because the deadline to decide was like in two weeks and I hadn't heard back from all programs. It's not a problem to do that in Europe because you don't have personal contacts with professors before starting the program, there's no money or wait list involved (at least in the Netherlands), and the faculty is definitely not as involved in the admission decisions as in the US. It's also not as competitive as in the US, and programs don't actively try to keep you when they accept you. They don't do that with Phd applicants, so why should they with MAs?

Of course, if you want to back out, you should still do that in a timely manner!

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