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Accept offer without funding or see if I get off waitlist - any advice?

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So I've been accepted to School A without funding, and am in the process of speaking to professors to figure out who has funding and if they'd take me on. I may or may not know whether I can get funding by the time I have to make a decision. I'm waitlisted at School B that guarantees funding and assume I won't hear until around/right after the April 15 deadline. To complicate things, my boyfriend just matched for a 3-year residency program at School B. Both are good programs, but School A and School B are a 7 hour drive apart. Everywhere else is a no go. I'd appreciate any input on...

1. If I accept School A and then hear from School B after April 15, is it possible to turn around and tell School A that I'm actually not showing up after all? 

2. Any suggestions for getting off the waitlist? I'm also not entirely sure why I was waitlisted instead of accepted when I had received very positive feedback from POIs. Of course many amazing candidates submitted strong applications, but right now if I had to reapply I don't know what I'd need to do to make myself more attractive to School B. 

3. If I don't have guaranteed funding for at least the first year at School A by the deadline, should I just reject them regardless of School B? I like their program, and if I had funding I think I could be happy and successful there. I've been told that grants come through during the summer, so sometimes people are able to commit first and find funding later. Obviously I don't want to get stuck with an unfunded PhD though.

4. This may be a long shot, but has anyone done a long distance relationship during grad school/residency? If so, thoughts/advice would be appreciated. I know it wouldn't be easy but I may want/need to explore ways to make it work. 

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I'm following this for everyones thoughts & advice because I'm in almost an identical situation. At least we're not alone!

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20 minutes ago, psych2315 said:

I'm following this for everyones thoughts & advice because I'm in almost an identical situation. At least we're not alone!

I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one, and I hope we both get good news soon! 

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2 hours ago, epi_hopeful19 said:

So I've been accepted to School A without funding, and am in the process of speaking to professors to figure out who has funding and if they'd take me on. I may or may not know whether I can get funding by the time I have to make a decision. I'm waitlisted at School B that guarantees funding and assume I won't hear until around/right after the April 15 deadline. To complicate things, my boyfriend just matched for a 3-year residency program at School B. Both are good programs, but School A and School B are a 7 hour drive apart. Everywhere else is a no go. I'd appreciate any input on...

1. If I accept School A and then hear from School B after April 15, is it possible to turn around and tell School A that I'm actually not showing up after all? 

2. Any suggestions for getting off the waitlist? I'm also not entirely sure why I was waitlisted instead of accepted when I had received very positive feedback from POIs. Of course many amazing candidates submitted strong applications, but right now if I had to reapply I don't know what I'd need to do to make myself more attractive to School B. 

3. If I don't have guaranteed funding for at least the first year at School A by the deadline, should I just reject them regardless of School B? I like their program, and if I had funding I think I could be happy and successful there. I've been told that grants come through during the summer, so sometimes people are able to commit first and find funding later. Obviously I don't want to get stuck with an unfunded PhD though.

4. This may be a long shot, but has anyone done a long distance relationship during grad school/residency? If so, thoughts/advice would be appreciated. I know it wouldn't be easy but I may want/need to explore ways to make it work. 

1. It is strongly discouraged to accept an offer and then pull it. This will burn many bridges within that school/department and may trickle into other potential professional relationships down the line. You don't want to be seen as someone unreliable. 

2. I don't think there is really a way to get off the waitlist. There are often plenty of very strong candidates but a faculty may only be able to take on 1 student but may have 3 amazing candidates and therefore 2 may be on a waitlist. Sometimes someone can be a faculty's 1st choice but they don't get 1st dibs on students and have to wait for a different faculty to run through their candidates before they can offer a position. Since it is getting close to the deadline, you can send a polite e-mail stating they are your 1st choice but you need to make a decision and if you can know your place on the waitlist (maybe knowing if you're next in line vs further down the list may make the decision easier). 

3. There isn't really a right answer here. Basically, the question boils down to taking a gamble on funding this year or taking a gamble on getting accepted by school B next year. 

4. I personally have not, but I have multiple friends who have, including friends who did med school in separate places and residency in separate states and got married during all of it and are living apart as a married couple. It sucks, but daily Skype dates and the like make it doable. While long, a 7 hour drive isn't the worst (could be way worse in that it isn't a fathomable drive at all). Take this for what it is though, as every relationship is different. 

Good luck!

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6 minutes ago, PsyDGrad90 said:

1. It is strongly discouraged to accept an offer and then pull it. This will burn many bridges within that school/department and may trickle into other potential professional relationships down the line. You don't want to be seen as someone unreliable. 

What on Earth are you talking about? What do you think happens when someone gets off a waitlist? Moreover, OP's offer doesn't even come with funding. So even if the fuzzy rationale behind your advice was the CGS resolution, it doesn't apply. Even if it did one can obtain a release from the institution committed to. 

And Jesus, stop with melodrama about professional relationships down the line and being seen as unreliable. Waitlists are thing. Schools know about them.

OP - please talk to some mentors or advisors at your current school. Take anything from randos on the interwebs (including me) with a grain of salt.

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Yes, waitlists are a thing, but that's why there's a (more or less) universally held deadline of April 15th, so that people have time to get all decisions in. The way students get off waitlists is when someone holding multiple offers releases one. Typically those are not accepted offers someone pulls but an offer someone holds and then rejects. Once you accept an offer and commit to a school, you are expected to keep that commitment. Same thing as in the real job market. If you sign paperwork formally accepting a job offer and pull it, that can definitely have negative backlash. It's not guaranteed, but some fields are a small world and taking that chance can come back to bite you later. It may vary in different fields, but my field definetely takes these guidelines seriously and reaffirms (and extends) them within it's own professional network of graduate training programs. Maybe other fields don't care as much. I also don't see how the CGS resolution does not apply: " 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."

https://cgsnet.org/april-15-resolution

If OP did not formally withdraw that acceptance prior to April 15th, they would need to be formally released from their prior commitment (and there is no guarantee they will provide that release). There is the caveat that OP wasn't guaranteed funding in the offer, but if that funding does come through before the April 15th deadline, then these guidelines definitely apply 

And absolutely, I would hope that anyone posting for advice on these forums would be using information recieved here as an addition to advice they get from mentors in real life. 

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@PsyDGrad90 @Entangled Phantoms Thank you both for your feedback! I know it's very tricky and frowned upon to accept an offer and try to back out post-deadline. I'm reaching out to current mentors but haven't been given a straight answer. The CSG link is helpful and gives me a sense of what to expect. I'm aware that even if I decline School A, there's a decent chance I'd network with or collaborate with their faculty down the line, so I'd like to maintain good relationships with them. That said, hopefully everyone can respect how important funding is to the school selection process. Closer to the deadline I was considering emailing School A to let them know I am waitlisted at a place that guarantees funding- basically trying to give them fair warning of what might happen. Good idea or nah? 

Also, it's very impressive that some people make that kind of serious long distance relationship work! 

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8 hours ago, PsyDGrad90 said:

Yes, waitlists are a thing, but that's why there's a (more or less) universally held deadline of April 15th, so that people have time to get all decisions in. The way students get off waitlists is when someone holding multiple offers releases one.

For whatever reason, a non-trivial number of people seem to wait right up to the 4/15 deadline before choosing one offer from two or more competing ones. Graduate programs don't automatically call the next stiff off the waitlist. I know because I got my offer on 4/26. Guess what? More than likely, someone on a waitlist that the school I committed to was made an offer after that. 
 

8 hours ago, PsyDGrad90 said:

Once you accept an offer and commit to a school, you are expected to keep that commitment. Same thing as in the real job market. If you sign paperwork formally accepting a job offer and pull it, that can definitely have negative backlash. It's not guaranteed, but some fields are a small world and taking that chance can come back to bite you later. It may vary in different fields, but my field definetely takes these guidelines seriously and reaffirms (and extends) them within it's own professional network of graduate training programs. Maybe other fields don't care as much.

I am sorry that you work in a field with such petty and vindictive people. You should probably add that caveat in your advice. Faculty and admissions staff in the science and engineering must be real sweeties. Personally, I think all it takes is a basic sense of decency and understanding to not hold a grudge against someone because of waitlist movement after the deadline.

FWIW, I called the prospective advisor at the school I originally committed to and let him know I got into my top choice. He wished me well and told me to notify he admissions staff and I did. A year later, I  invited said prospective advisor to my current school to give a talk to the student chapter of our professional society. He was happy to come and did.

 

8 hours ago, PsyDGrad90 said:

 I also don't see how the CGS resolution does not apply:

Read the first sentence of the link you posted.

 

Advice on these forums can have big real life consequences. Please recognize that before spooking prospective students by talking about torching one's professional network and whatnot. This might be a problem in your field. If so, I am very sorry that you have to deal with this. Most of us do not.

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9 hours ago, epi_hopeful19 said:

The CSG link is helpful and gives me a sense of what to expect.

The CGS resolution applies to offers of funding.
 

9 hours ago, epi_hopeful19 said:

I'm aware that even if I decline School A, there's a decent chance I'd network with or collaborate with their faculty down the line, so I'd like to maintain good relationships with them.

I would assume they can be professionals about this especially since they are not offering you funding, but apparently there are psychos in some fields.
 

9 hours ago, epi_hopeful19 said:

Closer to the deadline I was considering emailing School A to let them know I am waitlisted at a place that guarantees funding- basically trying to give them fair warning of what might happen. Good idea or nah? 

No idea. In my field, if you don't have an offer of funding, that in and of itself, says that program has only minimal interest in you. Consequently, the only people disappointed when don't enroll are the people cashing your tuition checks. 

If you have an offer of funding, it seems like a good idea to let the PI know. I wish I had done this. 

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22 minutes ago, Entangled Phantoms said:

The CGS resolution applies to offers of funding.
 

I would assume they can be professionals about this especially since they are not offering you funding, but apparently there are psychos in some fields.
 

No idea. In my field, if you don't have an offer of funding, that in and of itself, says that program has only minimal interest in you. Consequently, the only people disappointed when don't enroll are the people cashing your tuition checks. 

If you have an offer of funding, it seems like a good idea to let the PI know. I wish I had done this. 

Fair points! If I get an offer of funding from them before the deadline that would really change the equation. Everyone I've spoken with at School A has been super nice but I think they all know how crucial funding is, and in general I don't know that I'm comfortable accepting a non funded offer (and if I reapply, I'd only apply to schools that guarantee funding). It sounds as though when you accepted the second school post-deadline, everyone understood your reasoning and behaved professionally about it, which is heartening to hear. My understanding is that School B does take at least some people off the waitlist, so after having re-expressed my interest, I think there's a semi-decent chance I'd get off the waitlist at some point...and there's only ~4 more weeks till one way or another, I'm going to know for sure about School B and make a final decision about this (very long) application cycle. 

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Thanks everyone! I really needed this! I'm in a similar position: I've been accepted with okay funding at Texas A&M, but am waitlisted in two programs at Tulane (my top choice). My partner got into Tulane for a different program, with better funding than I got at Texas A&M, so it looks like we're probably going to be in NOLA come the fall. If I can get off at least one of the waitlists, I should also have a decent funding opportunity (better than Texas A&M anyway), plus I'm trying for the NSF-GRFP, which would also guarantee me a spot in either program, regardless of my waitlist status.

It's all really stressful, and I will likely hear back (unless I get the NSF-GRF) after the April 15th deadline. But it's nice to know that I'm not the only one!

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10 hours ago, Imalthica said:

Thanks everyone! I really needed this! I'm in a similar position: I've been accepted with okay funding at Texas A&M, but am waitlisted in two programs at Tulane (my top choice). My partner got into Tulane for a different program, with better funding than I got at Texas A&M, so it looks like we're probably going to be in NOLA come the fall. If I can get off at least one of the waitlists, I should also have a decent funding opportunity (better than Texas A&M anyway), plus I'm trying for the NSF-GRFP, which would also guarantee me a spot in either program, regardless of my waitlist status.

It's all really stressful, and I will likely hear back (unless I get the NSF-GRF) after the April 15th deadline. But it's nice to know that I'm not the only one!

Good luck with the NSF-GRF! I'll keep my fingers crossed for you. Have you reached out to anyone at Tulane to see where you're ranked on the waitlist or even just to reiterate your interest?

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Posted (edited)
46 minutes ago, epi_hopeful19 said:

Good luck with the NSF-GRF! I'll keep my fingers crossed for you. Have you reached out to anyone at Tulane to see where you're ranked on the waitlist or even just to reiterate your interest?

Thanks! I feel pretty good about the quality of my NSF-GRF application, though it's my first time applying, and I've heard it's kind of a crap-shoot. I applied for the interdisciplinary category (70% ecology, 30% anthropology), so I'm not really sure how that'll go. I just hope I get it, because it's a lot of money I could definitely use for my predicament right now with grad school :P

I'm ranked 6th on one wait-list for two spots, while the other one is unranked, but the POI is super enthusiastic about me. I have expressed my interest for both programs multiple times to multiple relevant people, and have made sure that it is understood that I want to keep both my spots on the wait-lists. I'm hoping that if I don't get in this year, I can at least work as an RA in the meantime in either program, and reapply again next year. It just doesn't make sense to accept the lower-funded offer if I have the chance of going to the school I would prefer, along with my partner and more money, but we'll see.

Edited by Imalthica

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1 hour ago, Imalthica said:

Thanks! I feel pretty good about the quality of my NSF-GRF application, though it's my first time applying, and I've heard it's kind of a crap-shoot. I applied for the interdisciplinary category (70% ecology, 30% anthropology), so I'm not really sure how that'll go. I just hope I get it, because it's a lot of money I could definitely use for my predicament right now with grad school :P

I'm ranked 6th on one wait-list for two spots, while the other one is unranked, but the POI is super enthusiastic about me. I have expressed my interest for both programs multiple times to multiple relevant people, and have made sure that it is understood that I want to keep both my spots on the wait-lists. I'm hoping that if I don't get in this year, I can at least work as an RA in the meantime in either program, and reapply again next year. It just doesn't make sense to accept the lower-funded offer if I have the chance of going to the school I would prefer, along with my partner and more money, but we'll see.

Oh that sounds really cool! I take it that you won't hear back about the NSF-GRF application till after the deadline?

Well, it sounds like you're doing all that you can. And if you work there as an RA, especially after how much they already liked you this year, I'm sure your chances at getting in would be sky high! Honestly I think to a certain extent being in this position is clarifying - at least for me, its pushed me to reconsider what is *really* important to me and rearranging some of my priorities. Like at first when I applied I thought I'd only do research one well defined area, but as I try to figure out funding, I realize that even if I don't study this one exact thing, I'll gain the skills I need from working in a different but related area a POI actually has a grant in. 

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43 minutes ago, epi_hopeful19 said:

Oh that sounds really cool! I take it that you won't hear back about the NSF-GRF application till after the deadline?

Well, it sounds like you're doing all that you can. And if you work there as an RA, especially after how much they already liked you this year, I'm sure your chances at getting in would be sky high! Honestly I think to a certain extent being in this position is clarifying - at least for me, its pushed me to reconsider what is *really* important to me and rearranging some of my priorities. Like at first when I applied I thought I'd only do research one well defined area, but as I try to figure out funding, I realize that even if I don't study this one exact thing, I'll gain the skills I need from working in a different but related area a POI actually has a grant in. 

I should hear back about the NSF-GRF in early April (4th-6th), so just a bit before the deadline.

I wholeheartedly agree though, about being in this sort of position. While it would have been nice to have grabbed a spot with funding back in mid-February I've learned a lot through this process, and it's definitely changed my framework for how I might approach it again in the future, if need be. And it's really reassured me of what my priorities are, especially with regards to my interdisciplinary interests. While my multidisciplinary tendencies are probably what kept me from being accepted to more programs outright, I still won't give them up, just alter my approach and narrative to suit my goals, if I must. I guess it's good though, to better learn how to sell yourself and your ideas to other people...

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10 hours ago, Imalthica said:

I should hear back about the NSF-GRF in early April (4th-6th), so just a bit before the deadline.

I wholeheartedly agree though, about being in this sort of position. While it would have been nice to have grabbed a spot with funding back in mid-February I've learned a lot through this process, and it's definitely changed my framework for how I might approach it again in the future, if need be. And it's really reassured me of what my priorities are, especially with regards to my interdisciplinary interests. While my multidisciplinary tendencies are probably what kept me from being accepted to more programs outright, I still won't give them up, just alter my approach and narrative to suit my goals, if I must. I guess it's good though, to better learn how to sell yourself and your ideas to other people...

Ok, that would be incredible if it came through for you! Crazy how everything seems to get backed up till right before the deadline. I'd had these naive hopes that I'd get multiple funded offers and be able to figure everything out by April. 

Yeah, figuring out how to market yourself is likely something I need to work on as well. I don't think having multidisciplinary interests should hold you or anyone back, but it likely is harder to package/communicate those interests in a way that makes programs feel that you are the perfect fit. If I do wind up reapplying, that's something I'll have to give a lot of thought to, especially because I thought my statement of purpose was really strong but...perhaps I was wrong about that given the way things are turning out.

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On 3/20/2019 at 5:12 PM, epi_hopeful19 said:

So I've been accepted to School A without funding, and am in the process of speaking to professors to figure out who has funding and if they'd take me on. I may or may not know whether I can get funding by the time I have to make a decision. I'm waitlisted at School B that guarantees funding and assume I won't hear until around/right after the April 15 deadline. To complicate things, my boyfriend just matched for a 3-year residency program at School B. Both are good programs, but School A and School B are a 7 hour drive apart. Everywhere else is a no go. I'd appreciate any input on...

I hope you get good news soon! When making a decision I like to consider the worst case scenario.

Do you think you could get a suitable job in location A that would still allow you to attend your program? Hopefully you'll get funding from the professors, but it would be nice to know if you can provide your own funding just in case. 

Do you think you could get a job that you wouldn't mind doing for a year in location B in case you aren't accepted this year and want to reapply for next year? 

If it was me I would look for jobs that appealed to me in these two locations to cover my bases. 

Once your boyfriend starts residency, how much free time will he have? How much free time will you have? Being at location A might not be so different than being at location B in terms of the time you get to see him if he has to do one of those ridiculously grueling residency programs. I think a long distance relationship could definitely work even though its tough. 

Best of luck to you!! I hope you get accepted with funding to both schools and can have your choice! 

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14 hours ago, bookworm2 said:

I hope you get good news soon! When making a decision I like to consider the worst case scenario.

Do you think you could get a suitable job in location A that would still allow you to attend your program? Hopefully you'll get funding from the professors, but it would be nice to know if you can provide your own funding just in case. 

Do you think you could get a job that you wouldn't mind doing for a year in location B in case you aren't accepted this year and want to reapply for next year? 

If it was me I would look for jobs that appealed to me in these two locations to cover my bases. 

Once your boyfriend starts residency, how much free time will he have? How much free time will you have? Being at location A might not be so different than being at location B in terms of the time you get to see him if he has to do one of those ridiculously grueling residency programs. I think a long distance relationship could definitely work even though its tough. 

Best of luck to you!! I hope you get accepted with funding to both schools and can have your choice! 

Thank you for the advice! These are all helpful questions to consider.

I think I could get a job in location A, however because I'd still be out the tuition (~20k p/semester), I don't think I'd be able to afford the first year without loans for tuition. I am hoping to avoid spending too much of my savings while in school if at all possible. 

I've thought of that and am considering it. My main issue with that is I think the weakness in my application may be more related to coursework than to work/research experience (aka I need to take a few more classes to boost my application). It's not like I couldn't take classes in location B (or possibly even at School B!) but it would be more of a stressful adjustment to start a new job and balance classes. If I take more classes, I think I'd need to get As in all of them. 

Yeah, neither of us will really have much free time. You have a point that I likely wouldn't be seeing him much regardless of where we each lived, at least for the first year. It's hard to balance career aspirations with relationships, and while he's supportive, we clearly need to have a few ongoing conversations about how to balance all these changes. 

Fingers crossed, and I hope so too!!

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