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NatsumeHeidegger

Is it ever acceptable to back out of an offer after the deadline?

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Hi all,

I have an idea of what the answer will be, but I wanted to hear people's views on this anyways.

After applying for PhD programs this year, I received my only offer of admission at the last minute. It was a "safety school" I had applied to based on advice from one my undergraduate professors, and they advised me to take the offer and transfer up to a better program after my masters. Now, though, after reading that some admissions committees are hesitant to accept students transferring from another PhD program, I am having second thoughts about whether accepting was a good idea. At the same time, I have received a few offers for non-academic jobs I had applied for several months ago (thinking I had been shut out of graduate school for the year) that I now think may be better than continuing in academia if it is going to be an uphill battle.

So my question is whether there is any acceptable way, that won't keep me from ever getting into another graduate program in the future, to back out at this point. I know it seems ridiculous to want to back out before I have even started, but if there is an acceptable way to do it, I would rather quit now than spend two years getting a masters. If not, as I assume is probably the case, I will probably just stop after my masters.

I appreciate your time and your responses.

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Sure, it's acceptable. It's not ideal, but nobody is going to lose any sleep over you. As for your future admissions chances, nobody will ever know except people working in that department. They may remember for a few years, but eventually they'll forget, too. They certainly won't communicate with any other departments about it.

On transferring: yes, it can be a little harder, because the standards for a transfer are higher. You have to make the case for your transfer, after all, and that requires you to be pretty sure about why you're not a good fit where you are--and "it's ranked too low" just won't cut it. It's also hard because you have to ask for letters from faculty in the department you're leaving. That said, transfers happen all the time. I know dozens of people who've transferred, many of them when they were quite far into their original PhD program.

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@maxhgns provides some very good advice. However it is worth noting that given the notorious competitiveness of philosophy PhD admissions, the old idiom "one bird in hand is better than two in the bush" may be applicable. Not that such a warning should be decisive, but I wouldn't dismiss it too easily either. You have an admission to a PhD program, and there is no guarantee that you will be equally successful next time (of course it's also possible you're much more successful the second time around).

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Unfortunately the answer is a cold hard no. If you back out now a call will be put out for your detainment by the Inter-university Police. You will be found and held, forced to finish the terms of your accepted offer. At the conclusion of these terms, you will be placed in a black list among all degree granting institutions barring your employment there on grounds of disrespect to the high authority of the Ivory Tower.

 

You ought to think these things through beforehand...

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Posted (edited)
20 hours ago, armchair_revolutionary said:

Unfortunately the answer is a cold hard no. If you back out now a call will be put out for your detainment by the Inter-university Police. You will be found and held, forced to finish the terms of your accepted offer. At the conclusion of these terms, you will be placed in a black list among all degree granting institutions barring your employment there on grounds of disrespect to the high authority of the Ivory Tower.

You ought to think these things through beforehand...

Honestly, I am worried for the OP for even posing the question in a public forum. So risky I hope he was using a proxy.

Edited by Duns Eith

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I will address the assumption that institutions are hesitant of taking transfers from PhD programs: it's simply not true. This is actually something that I had believed before this application season, but I found out, while vising departments this year, that MANY people that were admitted were PhD transfers. One of the people that got accepted at UVA and was waitlisted at Notre Dame was on their 4th year of their Phd (!). 

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I would recommend you call the school and see if they would allow you to defer for a year. This would mean that you'll wait until the following year to begin, instead of going immediately into it this fall.

This way, while your current PhD program is on hold, you can work for a year and also try again to apply for admission at other PhD programs. If you still don't have a good chance at being accepted, then you can always fall back on your "safe school".

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