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Very Unoffical Offer- with a Big Caveat


historyhopeful

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I'll preface this by saying I am pretty thrilled to have gotten in anywhere (though of course an offer is never firm until it is in writing.)

I applied to 8 programs for a phd in early modern European history. 4 are excellent state schools, and 4 are Ivies that match my interests amazingly well. I received a phone call yesterday from the PA with whom I applied to work at one of my top 3 schools (somehow, all Ivy... not quite sure how that happened.) Basically, he told me I am in-- but only if I can guarantee that I will not turn down the offer. He will only be able to get one student in this year and doesn't want to push for me if I cannot commit to going to the school. He also had a conversation with my PA at another top choice, and told me that that PA will be admitting me as well, so this seems to stem from that conversation.

I understand completely, and actually appreciate the transparency, but find myself in a difficult situation. I am weeks away from finding out about my other 2 top choices, but he has asked for my answer in a week. He is fully willing to discuss the pros and cons of the other programs (and has been unbelievably helpful throughout the application process), but I am hesitant to commit when I have no way of knowing about other offers (much less anything about stipends, etc.)

Has anyone been in this situation before? Can I email my other PAs (and if yes, what in the world do I say?)

I need some serious advice, if anyone can offer some.

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I'll preface this by saying I am pretty thrilled to have gotten in anywhere (though of course an offer is never firm until it is in writing.)

I applied to 8 programs for a phd in early modern European history. 4 are excellent state schools, and 4 are Ivies that match my interests amazingly well. I received a phone call yesterday from the PA with whom I applied to work at one of my top 3 schools (somehow, all Ivy... not quite sure how that happened.) Basically, he told me I am in-- but only if I can guarantee that I will not turn down the offer. He will only be able to get one student in this year and doesn't want to push for me if I cannot commit to going to the school. He also had a conversation with my PA at another top choice, and told me that that PA will be admitting me as well, so this seems to stem from that conversation.

I understand completely, and actually appreciate the transparency, but find myself in a difficult situation. I am weeks away from finding out about my other 2 top choices, but he has asked for my answer in a week. He is fully willing to discuss the pros and cons of the other programs (and has been unbelievably helpful throughout the application process), but I am hesitant to commit when I have no way of knowing about other offers (much less anything about stipends, etc.)

Has anyone been in this situation before? Can I email my other PAs (and if yes, what in the world do I say?)

I need some serious advice, if anyone can offer some.

Geez, that's a tough situation, and honestly seems a bit unfair to me. While I do understand the school's perspective (limited funding available, very few spots), it seems to me like, if other schools take the chance of admitting students that may not accept their offers, this school should be no different. Clearly, the PA with whom he spoke at the other school is admitting you without doing this. And isn't this exactly what waitlists are for?

But anyway, I realize that you are in a difficult situation and have to handle it somehow with minimal feather-ruffling. If I were you, I'd just be honest: this school is one of your top choices, but we're talking about the next 6-7 years of your life, and you need time to visit a few places, figure out funding, and be absolutely sure. I would mention somehow that you feel like you are in a difficult position, because you don't want to lose a place at a school that may potentially be perfect for you, but you also don't want to rule out other options prematurely.

Best of luck to you!

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Geez, that's a tough situation, and honestly seems a bit unfair to me.

It is unfair. I remember someone had a similar situation last year when the school was trying to figure out if they would come before they offered admission. Basically if I remember correctly, the person told the school diplomatically that they couldn't answer a hypothetical and needed to actually have an offer before they would respond to it. That may be the way to go, since that prof is only giving his word at this time (which may be good, but its not on paper). If you really wanted my opinion, personally this situation would make me look less favorably on this school and prof, because profs push for applicants all the time and the applicant chooses some where else to go. It's part of this weird pseudo mating dance that is called applying to grad school.

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Remember, though, this isn't the school making an early conditional offer... But a single professor.

Basically, it seems that the school hasn't made offers yet... But really, most professors have enough clout to get any student they want, assuming that student will be working with them. So this prof is saying that if you assure him you'll come, that he'll talk to the Addcom on your behalf and push your application through. He knows he'll really only be able to push like that for one app this season, and so he doesn't want to use it on you unless you're sure you want to come work with him.

Basically, it's a quasi-back door admission. You want to work with him, he wants you to work with him, if you give him your assurance, he requests that they formally admit you.

At least that's how I read the situation, based on similar ones I've seen.

Edited by Eigen
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Thanks for the advice. I do think I will let the professor know that all things being equal, this is my top choice. After thinking about it over the past day, I realize that it is probably the best fit for my interests and life (won't even have to move!)

That being said, I will be sure tell him that I cannot make a final decision without all offers on the table-- packages can vary greatly, and I cannot make an uninformed choice. While I dislike the way this is being done, after speaking to a number of friends at top programs, it seems like this isn't too uncommon, and the answer I plan to give is a typical one to this type of quandary.

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Thanks for the advice. I do think I will let the professor know that all things being equal, this is my top choice. After thinking about it over the past day, I realize that it is probably the best fit for my interests and life (won't even have to move!)

That being said, I will be sure tell him that I cannot make a final decision without all offers on the table-- packages can vary greatly, and I cannot make an uninformed choice. While I dislike the way this is being done, after speaking to a number of friends at top programs, it seems like this isn't too uncommon, and the answer I plan to give is a typical one to this type of quandary.

Yes, it seems like a right decision.

Please tell us what the professor will answer!

Good luck!

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