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TheAbsurdLife

acceptance letter - is it ethical to withdraw before April 15th

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Hello,

 

Recently I applied to a number of graduate program in the humanities. After applying to eight schools, I received an offer in late February for a full funding package, from one of the universities, which seemed rather early to me. This offer came from an advisor, not the actual graduate school - the official letter of acceptance from the graduate school came several weeks later. In the offer, the advisor stated that though I had been offered funding, they would appreciate an answer on whether I would accept the funding as soon as possible. Since this was late February, and I had only heard back from one school at the time, this put me in tricky situation, and I couldn't really give her a definitive answer. I would certainly accept the funding if I chose to attend, but that was not a certainty by any means. The school from which I received the offer was not my top choice, a good school, but not a top choice. As such, I told her I needed more time, without going into any details. Quite simply though, I just hadn't heard back from most of my schools.

A couple of weeks later I heard back from this same advisor, and this time she again asked for an answer as soon as possible, but did notify me that the national deadline in which a decision can be made is April 15th, several weeks away. At this time, I was still waiting to receive a decision from a couple of other schools. I told her (the advisor that contacted me) that I needed more time. One to two weeks went by, and trying to expedite the decision, I contacted the one last school that I hadn't heard from, and found out I had been placed on the waiting list. My waitlisted school said they needed to receive word from a couple of other students whom they had made offers to, and they could then possibly make an offer to me if these students declined. As such, after thinking myself into a rabbit hole with these complications, rashly, despite having thought of it for several weeks (which may be why I thought myself into a rabbit hole) I accepted the offer from the initial school that made the offer.

I have read elsewhere on these boards that accepting an offer and then withdrawing it after April 15th, for a waitlisted school is highly unethical and can cause dismissal from all schools. I certainly see the reasoning behind that, but if I were to rescind my acceptance before April 15th, hopefully a week or more, would this be considered unethical since they could still easily give the funding elsewhere? Moroever, would it be a disadvantage to the school I did receive the offer from? Finally, could it possibly have an effect on my long-term career if I rescinded the offer and accepted admission to the waitlisted school? Another question, which seems to be a personal one depending on who is replying: I have seen some people say that programs reaching out like this early isn't necessarily right because they are applying pressure on a student earlier than maybe they should? I have also heard other people on these threads make strong points that these universities need to hear back as soon as they can so other students aren't caught in a similar limbo as the the one I am in now. So I guess if anyone has to offer on this point, please feel free to do so. I did feel pressured because it was so early and I had received so few responses, but I also understand what the university is trying to do.

Again, is it ethical to rescind an acceptance of funding and admission before April 15th (hopefully a week or more before)? Would this burn a serious bridge that would hurt my career? Would another student not receive funding since I accepted the offer and then withdrew it? I understand that some programs will reach out to their highly-regarded candidates in order to recruit them, but it sounds like I have a solid chance of getting off of the waitlist. It was one of my top schools, for not just academic reasons but personal as well. Seeing how this is the next five years of my life, it's a weighty decision to make. Please let me know what you think, or if you have any official procedures for going about these matters. Thanks!

Edited by TheAbsurdLife

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Forgive me if I don't read the block of text you've posted there. (For a humanities PhD, you might want to work on your writing, though. Paragraphs might help.) There have been dozens of discussions of the question in your title in the last three days alone. The short answer: You're not breaking any laws but you'd be going back on a promise and possibly burning a bridge. It's not exactly ethical to do that, but on the other hand it's your future we're discussing, so it might still be worth it. It's up to you do decide if the burnt bridge is worth it. Whether the "bridge" involves just someone being pissed at you, or lost funding or recruitment opportunities is unknowable since it depends on the particulars of the position in question, the source of funding, school-internal policies, etc. You should consider the worst case scenario when making your decision. 

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12 hours ago, TheAbsurdLife said:

A couple of weeks later I heard back from this same advisor, and this time she again asked for an answer as soon as possible, but did notify me that the national deadline in which a decision can be made is April 15th, several weeks away. ..... As such, after thinking myself into a rabbit hole with these complications, rashly, despite having thought of it for several weeks (which may be why I thought myself into a rabbit hole) I accepted the offer from the initial school that made the offer.

For the love of God, why do people accept offers they aren't crazy about well before the deadline?

 

13 hours ago, TheAbsurdLife said:

I have seen some people say that programs reaching out like this early isn't necessarily right because they are applying pressure on a student earlier than maybe they should? I have also heard other people on these threads make strong points that these universities need to hear back as soon as they can so other students aren't caught in a similar limbo as the the one I am in now. So I guess if anyone has to offer on this point, please feel free to do so.

Boo hoo, you got an early acceptance. Stop trying to rationalize your decision by likening an early acceptance and funding offer into a stealth pressure campaign. Did want to you to accept quickly? Of course they did. Do you think they made you an early offer of admission and funding because they were ambivalent about you? They wanted you! That is OK. The school clearly told you that the deadline was April 15th. They did everything right. Nonsense rationalization is what got you in this situation to begin with. Christ!

Live with the choices you made. Don't come up with BS reasons for justifying whatever you are going to do.

As poorly as you've handled this, fuzzy is right. A PhD is a long time and you should consider what is in your long term best interest. If and when you do withdraw from the school you know informed you'd enroll at, let them know as soon as possible that you are withdrawing so that they can go down their list of applicants and get their 2nd or 3rd choice candidate. It is the least you could do even if you dread this conversation. If a phone call is too scary, at least send an e-mail. Professors are surprisingly understanding with stuff like this, especially if you are honest about your situation and timely with your response.

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Hi Disco,

Thank you for your rather impassioned and mildly antagonistic response, but nonetheless, I took responsibility several times within what I wrote. I did make that choice and it was clearly a mistaken one: my opinion was mainly based on what others have said on these boards, and I was wondering if this was legitimate, or as you said, rationalization (or, more likely and a much less assumptive conclusion, just simply untrue for any variety of reasons unknown to either of us.) I'm afraid I don't see any overt "nonsense rationalization" in what I wrote though, but if that is what you read into it, feel free. I'm not sure if the premises add up to the conclusion in your logic. Also, I did like the program, and explicitly said why I accepted the offer, so did you need to ask the question? Or was that rhetorical? -  no, anything of value you said in the final paragraph, which was really all I needed. Leave this sort of rhetoric for Buzzzfeed and I would suggest just relaxing a bit.  Come on "Boo hoo"?

 

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1 hour ago, TheAbsurdLife said:

Hi Disco,

Thank you for your rather impassioned and mildly antagonistic response, but nonetheless, I took responsibility several times within what I wrote. I did make that choice and it was clearly a mistaken one: my opinion was mainly based on what others have said on these boards, and I was wondering if this was legitimate, or as you said, rationalization (or, more likely and a much less assumptive conclusion, just simply untrue for any variety of reasons unknown to either of us.) I'm afraid I don't see any overt "nonsense rationalization" in what I wrote though, but if that is what you read into it, feel free. I'm not sure if the premises add up to the conclusion in your logic. Also, I did like the program, and explicitly said why I accepted the offer, so did you need to ask the question? Or was that rhetorical? -  no, anything of value you said in the final paragraph, which was really all I needed. Leave this sort of rhetoric for Buzzzfeed and I would suggest just relaxing a bit.  Come on "Boo hoo"?

 

You're welcome! "Boo hoo" beats "cry me a river." No?

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Disco,

Last message because I feel like I'm stooping by being this petty: "cry me a river." Great, another generic statement, which you seem quite adept at making (I guess we all have limitations...) Did you not read what I posted at all? I do not believe that this was  "cry me river" post. It was an inquiry into the proper ethical action to take. I think the talk of rationalizing and justifications is pretty typical of what many people do: they project themselves into the circumstance, and conclude that the person's motives would be the same as their own (clearly, for you this would entail a great deal of justifying and rationalizing)  if they were in their place. Nice to gain some insight into your inner psyche though, amusing and typical as it may be.

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Your post ratio on this board so far: 

1 exceedingly long post asking an entirely ordinary question that's been answered on the board dozens of times
2 posts complaining about the tone of the (helpful!) responses you got, tone-policing others 
0 posts thanking posters who took the time to help you
0 posts updating us about how our advice worked out 
0 posts helping others in any way 

I'd personally aim to make a slightly different impression.

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Apologies, FuzzyLogician, I applied this question on two different message boards and thought I had thanked you (I thank you) - although I did receive much different answers on ethics from other boards because of the April 15th resolution that all of my prospective schools signed. For most, it seemed like a very firm no on whether it was an ethical infraction. It doesn't seem to be a universal opinion that the ethics of the situation is a problem since it has been clearly laid out beforehand, but yes, it seems that sometimes a bridge may be burned, which is an unfortunate choice to have to make.

And I'm actually not sure of the helpfulness of the 2nd poster, he just seemed very antagonistic which wasn't something I encountered on other online message boards when the same questions were being asked. I guess that was why I was confused, other people on here seem to behave civilly - he seemed to be furious. I took accountability and I don't think there was enough information to pull the justification/rationalization argument out. In fact, it was hardly applicable. Frankly, most of what he wrote was more of an attack than anything else, which I didn't realize was the point of this website? Regardless, I appreciate your advice.

P.S. I typed the original post on my phone so yeah, it is not going to be perfect.

I will let you know what happens, though I certainly can't update you yet since I just asked the question.

And what would anyone like to know since I am the one making the inquiry? Nobody has asked me to help them out - what were you thinking of in regards to that question? Or are you talking historical? I just joined this site, so I haven't had much time to wander around. I can offer advice where needed, but I just don't see how I am supposed to help others in this context... you know, with me asking the question. With that being said, if you know anyone whom I could help with information, please let me know and I would surely offer it in a much more congenial way than on this thread.

Anyway, I do truly appreciate the information you have offered, even the last paragraph from Disco. So I thank you both for the constructive information you did offer, but you could have left out the rest. I do not appreciate the over excess of attitude and presumption, not tone, these were assumptions, and Disco needs to gain some self-awareness before he tries to analyze any online poster from who knows how many miles away. A lot of unnecessary sass for what seems to be an extremely  common question and  an extremely common situation to find oneself in.

 

 

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1 hour ago, TheAbsurdLife said:

Apologies, FuzzyLogician, I applied this question on two different message boards and thought I had thanked you (I thank you) - although I did receive much different answers on ethics from other boards because of the April 15th resolution that all of my prospective schools signed. For most, it seemed like a very firm no on whether it was an ethical infraction. It doesn't seem to be a universal opinion that the ethics of the situation is a problem since it has been clearly laid out beforehand, but yes, it seems that sometimes a bridge may be burned, which is an unfortunate choice to have to make.

And I'm actually not sure of the helpfulness of the 2nd poster, he just seemed very antagonistic which wasn't something I encountered on other online message boards when the same questions were being asked. I guess that was why I was confused, other people on here seem to behave civilly - he seemed to be furious. I took accountability and I don't think there was enough information to pull the justification/rationalization argument out. In fact, it was hardly applicable. Frankly, most of what he wrote was more of an attack than anything else, which I didn't realize was the point of this website? Regardless, I appreciate your advice.

P.S. I typed the original post on my phone so yeah, it is not going to be perfect.

I will let you know what happens, though I certainly can't update you yet since I just asked the question.

And what would anyone like to know since I am the one making the inquiry? Nobody has asked me to help them out - what were you thinking of in regards to that question? Or are you talking historical? I just joined this site, so I haven't had much time to wander around. I can offer advice where needed, but I just don't see how I am supposed to help others in this context... you know, with me asking the question. With that being said, if you know anyone whom I could help with information, please let me know and I would surely offer it in a much more congenial way than on this thread.

Anyway, I do truly appreciate the information you have offered, even the last paragraph from Disco. So I thank you both for the constructive information you did offer, but you could have left out the rest. I do not appreciate the over excess of attitude and presumption, not tone, these were assumptions, and Disco needs to gain some self-awareness before he tries to analyze any online poster from who knows how many miles away. A lot of unnecessary sass for what seems to be an extremely  common question and  an extremely common situation to find oneself in.

 

 

Sometimes you need to let things go. You're on your third message board with what you acknowledge is an "extremely common question" and has likely been covered a ton on all three message boards already. I am sorry I could not offer the sympathy and affirmation you crave. 

Edited by DiscoTech

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I agree, we can let this one go. When I meant another message board I meant another website (so this website, then another - two), the response most often being that the April 15th resolution made it okay, but not ideal for anyone. And when I came on this site it was on the recommendation of an acquaintance at work, who told me "Just ask on GradCafe!" So I did, admittedly without looking around as much as I could, otherwise I would have seen the other boards. Regardless, I still didn't know that this question had been asked this many times though, so I think the animosity was a bit misplaced. Nonetheless, thank you both for your help and maybe we will meet again on more congenial terms.

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Disco,

I just noticed the last line to your post, I can't help but wonder if there is something seriously wrong with the way you interpret language and other people. It seems you're not even making an effort to be accurate, or to even offer evidence to your analysis of my intentions. You're just rolling with what works, like a 5 year old child - they do that too. And btw Disco, where is your evidence of this sympathy and affirmation I crave? Where is this in my original response? I'm guessing you're going to have to do some stretching with your interpretation, but a little hard work and purposeful ignorance and mental gymnastics and you'll get there. Your interpretation of my motives had nothing to do with my question which was on ethics, and I have to ask: what are you doing on this website if you are only here to antagonize? You're barely even bothering to answer the question. Do you need to feel superior to others? Is that why you project, like you did just again? And like you did earlier? Putting yourself in my shoes and imagining that if it were you, you would undoubtedly be seeking sympathy and affirmation, rationalization and justification for all your deeds, even the ones you are responsible for? And I am responsible for accepting that decision letter, but I never made any claim to the contrary.

Finding out what is proper and what is not during the admissions process isn't easy, especially since you only apply once, and trying to determine if you were treated fairly (which I now know I was, because I asked) seems like a proper course of action. I'm finding out a good deal about you - this is both annoying and intriguing at the same time. Seriously, take a week off from whatever you do, look inward, and stop projecting your own weaknesses onto others. I thanked you for providing very little information, yet you still can't help yourself. Why? The bitterness inherent in the "boo hoo" led me to believe that it may be because you did not get into a program that you desired? Because someone got picked right over you? These are assumptions as well of course, but I can't help but wonder where your personal offense comes from; however, I do know you are an extremely insecure person to attack someone for very little. Sad, I will offer you sympathy and affirmation, because, quite simply, that is what YOU want. Not me, I just want a question answered about April 15th college deadlines and ethics.  Anyway, I really did intend to end it with the last message, but like a child, especially one who constantly seeks sympathy and affirmation, desires justification and rationalization to explain one's actions, you just couldn't help yourself in getting a last word. Seriously, there are a lot of boards online where people want nothing more than to treat each other horribly, can we keep this treatment off more serious websites such as this?

Edited by TheAbsurdLife

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52 minutes ago, TheAbsurdLife said:

Disco,

I just noticed the last line to your post, I can't help but wonder if there is something seriously wrong with the way you interpret language and other people. It seems you're not even making an effort to be accurate, or to even offer evidence to your analysis of my intentions. You're just rolling with what works, like a 5 year old child - they do that too. And btw Disco, where is your evidence of this sympathy and affirmation I crave? Where is this in my original response? I'm guessing you're going to have to do some stretching with your interpretation, but a little hard work and purposeful ignorance and mental gymnastics and you'll get there. Your interpretation of my motives had nothing to do with my question which was on ethics, and I have to ask: what are you doing on this website if you are only here to antagonize? You're barely even bothering to answer the question. Do you need to feel superior to others? Is that why you project, like you did just again? And like you did earlier? Putting yourself in my shoes and imagining that if it were you, you would undoubtedly be seeking sympathy and affirmation, rationalization and justification for all your deeds, even the ones you are responsible for? And I am responsible for accepting that decision letter, but I never made any claim to the contrary.

Finding out what is proper and what is not during the admissions process isn't easy, especially since you only apply once, and trying to determine if you were treated fairly (which I now know I was, because I asked) seems like a proper course of action. I'm finding out a good deal about you - this is both annoying and intriguing at the same time. Seriously, take a week off from whatever you do, look inward, and stop projecting your own weaknesses onto others. I thanked you for providing very little information, yet you still can't help yourself. Why? The bitterness inherent in the "boo hoo" led me to believe that it may be because you did not get into a program that you desired? Because someone got picked right over you? These are assumptions as well of course, but I can't help but wonder where your personal offense comes from; however, I do know you are an extremely insecure person to attack someone for very little. Sad, I will offer you sympathy and affirmation, because, quite simply, that is what YOU want. Not me, I just want a question answered about April 15th college deadlines and ethics.  Anyway, I really did intend to end it with the last message, but like a child, especially one who constantly seeks sympathy and affirmation, desires justification and rationalization to explain one's actions, you just couldn't help yourself in getting a last word. Seriously, there are a lot of boards online where people want nothing more than to treat each other horribly, can we keep this treatment off more serious websites such as this?

Projection?

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15 minutes ago, TheAbsurdLife said:

I think you misunderstand that specific psychological concept - the example you gave was common-sense, a deduction if nothing else. I'm bored with this, for real this time, bye.

You sure? Bye!

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TheAbsurdLife,

So sorry you are having to deal with these awful comments of other posters, I guess your username explains it though... you do have an absurd life!! Just ignore Fuzzy and Disco, they clearly are either 1) bored and procrastinating or 2) needing something to take their frustration out on. This forum is to ask questions, to vent, to rant, and to help us. And that's exactly what you did! You did nothing wrong. So again, I'm sorry these clearly unhappy viewers decided to lash out at you and take our their frustration. Great job not feeding into it too much! Let the unhappy just be unhappy, no need to feed them ;)

Anywho, as of your sticky situation, I'm torn as of what to tell you. Only you can really make that call. IMO, it would definitely burn bridges... but as the other antagonistic replies have stated, that may be a bridge that's worth burning. I'm not too aware of how the funding, etc would be affected for other candidates. Do you have any sort of mentor or adviser guiding you through the application process? A professional in your field that wrote your letter of recommendation perhaps? I have had a couple questions regarding things as such, and my lovely adviser who has helped me through this whole process was willing to help me through them. Let us know (actually... forget Fuzzy and Disco... let ME know...) how everything turns out. Rooting for you!

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Damn, y'all are being kind of hard on the OP. As an undergrad who comes from a generally uneducated family/background, I found the entire application process immensely confusing and difficult to understand its nuances. I have sympathy for you AbsurdLife, it's a difficult and emotional process. I personally am in a similar situation: I have a funded offer from a lower choice program, but I am waitlisted for funding at my top choice. My advice based on nothing more than my own sense of courtesy would be to call the DGS, explain your situation, and see what they're willing to do. I know most DGS I have encountered are very sympathetic and really want you to make a choice that's in your best interest. They obviously value you and want you to attend their program, but surely they don't want to trap people into their program when said students want to go somewhere else. That being said, I would prepare yourself in case they aren't flexible, and ask yourself how much you REALLY want to attend the other program and whether you're willing to bank on getting off the waitlist, no matter how likely it seems. That's the action I would personally take. Please do keep us updated!

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Hi ARemi4b and Cassifrassidy,

Thank you for the kind words! Yes, I read the initial responses and just asked myself "Did I say something wrong here?" So it's good to know I'm not the only one who found their behavior antagonistic (people posting questions on message boards where people are meant to post questions... how dare they!). 

Anyway, in regards to your question ARemi, I did email my MA thesis advisor and one of my recommenders. He said that it would be advisable to go with the school that pursued me as one of their top choices, as opposed to the whole waitlisted situation. And Cassifrassidy, I did make a decision to stay where I was, but I haven't heard back from the waitlisted school anyway. I am setting up a meeting on Skype with my advisor to address any questions I have, and I'm sure my few concerns will be alleviated. 

Thank you both for the congeniality and help. How did things work out for you Cassifrassidy?

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If I understand this correctly, you don't actually have an offer from the waitlist school, though.  This is just a hypothetical situation?  I would follow your MA thesis advisor's advice and be content with the offer that you do have.  If you end up getting in off of the waitlist during the summer, then yes, you'll need to weight the pros and cons at that point and make a decision. 

I have known of students that have changed their minds during the summer and went to a different PhD program.  It's rare, but it happens.  And yes, the faculty tend to remember it because it's unusual and some cases, the dept loses that funding slot for future students (depending on how the funding is set up).  Whether that has a long term negative effect on the candidate who broke their promise, I suppose that is hard to say - but given how competitive getting an academic job is, I would want to be 200% sure that school B will be so much better than school A before I broke my promise to attend school A.

 

 

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