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I know this has been a long debated topic here and elsewhere but I cannot decide for the life of me. Here's my situation deciding between getting a MA or applying to PhD programs for the 2021 cycle.

I am about to graduate from my undergraduate. I have, in my eyes, a pretty typical English experience. Honors English Literature BA, graduating magna cum laude, honors thesis completed, solid recs from professors who know my work. I applied to 6 MA programs right out of undergraduate even though my advisor said I could try PhD programs (my eventual plan/goal at this point) but I was hard on myself and told myself I was not good enough. I got into 5/6 programs. One, more a safe option (I'm not exactly pumped about the school and location),  is offering me a GTA and another gave me a merit scholarship that covers only the first semester. The rest are not funded so I am not even going to consider them at this point. However, while I was getting my acceptance letters, I also found out a received a Fulbright ETA. Right now, I'm most likely accepting the Fulbright (I have until the end of this month to decide and I'm waiting to hear back from my commission regarding COVID-19) and deciding whether to defer one of my MA programs until Fall 2021 or reapply this fall for PhD programs. 

I guess I want to apply for the PhD but the part of me that did not apply in the first place is tempted to accept a MA as a safe option. I know the Fulbright will give me time to work, teach, and write outside of school which will help me in a future application although not guarantee it. So, I guess my question is: if you were in my shoes, would you recommend trying for the PhD or going through with accepting a MA program now? My main motivation for PhD programs is the fact I like the idea of gaining an MA in route to a PhD and working closely with the same faculty for 5+ years but I also do not want to get a shut out application cycle and regret not deferring the MA. 

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It sounds like you have a fully funded MA offer, which is rare, and thus hard to pass up. I think you should take it unless you're really unenthusiastic about the school. If you do well, or even only reasonably well, it can only improve your chances at most (all?) PhD programs

I also don't know if it's possible to defer GTA funding in a normal year, and think it is even less likely to happen now, since universities are likely to be tightening their belts in the face of the recession. Congrats on the acceptances! a funded offer of this kind is something to be proud of

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I would not be able to defer my GTA but they told me I could email them around admissions time to be re-considered so it's a 50/50 chance I think.

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Personally, if I'm understanding your situation correctly, I might go with the Fulbright for this year (pending COVID) and then apply to both PhDs and funded MAs for a Fall 2021 admission. I applied to 7 PhD programs and 1 MA program right out of undergrad, and, having been rejected by the PhDs and going in to a fully funded MA, I'm really grateful to have had this period of time to refine my research and research interests before going in to the PhD. If you apply to both MAs and PhDs, you'll (theoretically) have more choices come Spring 2021, and it sounds like you'd be likely to get into MA programs again. That way, you can eliminate the fear of regretting deferring the MA programs now, and if you get shut out from PhDs for Fall 2021, you could still start your MA that year, take more time to refine your research project and improve the breadth and depth of your knowledge, and then still go on to apply to PhDs again and have that 5+ year relationship that you're looking for. 

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