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Possible to bargain with a program you've already committed to join?


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So, I was admitted to two programs (among others), a European 3 year PhD (I have an MA) and an American 5 year PhD, of similar stature. The American one had a guarantee of (so-so) funding, a better location, and arguably a better fit, so I went with it, and sent my decision to both programs in March.

I just found out that I won an extremely competitive European doctoral fellowship which isn't valid in the states, and that comes with a stipend double what the American program is offering (in a cheaper location, to boot), and (great) guaranteed paid internship options. The European PhD program said that they'd still be happy to take me, even though I'd already said no.

I still prefer the American program, even with the much smaller funding package, and don't think that I'll back out, but I'm wondering if it's unheard of to try to leverage something like this. For what it's worth, having gotten this means that I could probably get a similar scholarship from the funder's American counterpart after my second year when I'm done with coursework.

Does bargaining like this ever work? If so, is it worth the somewhat disingenuous move of letting on that I might defect?

(I'm a semi-frequent poster under another name, anonymized here just in case)

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I'd hesitate to bargain in this position because of the message it will send off.

Usually when one bargains with schools offering an acceptance, the chip they hold in their hand is that they might not come. That is, I can ask School A for more money because of the threat that I'll choose School B instead.

Since you're already in, by bargaining you're essentially asking the school to pay you not to back out on your offer. That is, if we boil this down, your "threat," if School A doesn't ante up, is that you'll back out on your agreement to attend School A and attend School B.

I'd personally hesitate to enter that kind of game. Backing out of an agreement to attend a school is risky in the first place—to ask a school to pay you more in order to fulfill the agreement you already made will, I think, burn more bridges than the average bear looking to jump ship post April 15th.

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U.S school might take it badly if you are bargaining. I'm sure they have plenty other people in their stash of applicants that are fully willing to attend their school, that could potentially replace your spot. In other words, I would not risk it with bargaining.

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I think it depends on how you do it. The school certainly won't drop you as a previous poster suggested.

But I think a threat logic will be frowned upon at this time. The likelihood of them changing your package even when you have the credible threat of nonattendence is pretty low since they can fill their classes with competent applicants easily.

Instead, suggesting that there is some opportunity cost for you attending their institution and that they might be able to ease some of it could be appropriate. I don't know what the odds of that strategy working, but I don't think it would necessarily burn bridges and it can't be substantially less likely to succeed than hardball bargaining which doesn't have too great a success ratio anyways.

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I think that it would be poor form to try to renegotiate after having accepted their offer. You've already accepted their conditions. To attempt to renegotiate now would indicate a lack of good faith on your part.

Grad programs are often small. Once one develops a certain reputation, it can be hard to shake off.

If I were in your situation, I would only attempt to bargain if I felt that I could not cover my costs under the offered conditions. If this is the case, it might be worth the attempt. However, I would only do so if I was prepared to accept this new, second offer in the event that the grad program did not improve their original offer. If you then end up taking the same stipend you had originally been offered, your program might feel that you had not bargained in good faith.

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