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how to respond to acceptance when waiting to hear from other schools?


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I’m trying to figure out the “proper” etiquette for responding to an acceptance phone call or email.  For instance, let’s say I get a phone call:  “Hi IowaGuy, this is Professor XYZ, I enjoyed meeting with you last month and am excited to offer you an invitation to join our graduate program in ABC."

 

If I’m still waiting to hear back from other schools, how do I respectfully reply to such a call without making Professor XYZ think he’s not my first choice for a graduate program?  Thanks for any advice!

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The advice I received was to assure them that you are excited about the offer and are strongly considering it, and will let them know as soon as possible. Then you don't give an actual deadline, you let them know that you are interested and show enthusiasm, but don't have to tell them where they actually stand. And since most applications have a spot where they ask you to fill out where else you've applied, no one is going to think they are the only program that wants you. One of the POIs I spoke to acknowledged that they notify about admissions about a month before two other programs with which they are in competition for students, so they don't expect anyone to let them know until those other programs have notified. So I would think that most programs have a similar familiarity with the others in their field, in terms of when they send out notifications. 

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If you are a strong applicant, programs will expect that you will have other choices beside them. You don't need to feel bad or apologize for this. Acknowledge receipt of the offer and as Bearcat1 suggests, tell them that you're strongly considering it and will let them know as soon as you can. Of course, only do this as long as you are truly considering the offer. As soon as you've decided to decline, sleep on it a night or two to be sure, but don't stall. The funding that has been allocated to your offer could be re-offered to someone on the wait list. (To be sure, you don't need to feel bad about holding up someone else's potential offer as long as you're truly undecided; but don't hold it up once you've made up your mind.)

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"Wow, this is very exciting news!  I'm still waiting to hear back from some of the other programs I applied to, but Dreamsville U is one of my top choices, so I'm thrilled to be accepted."

 

Then you can ask whether there will be an accepted students visit organized, whether there are grad students in the program who might be open to answering questions by email, etc.  

Edited by Katzenmusik
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Do you think there's any value long-term (say, over the 5 years of your PhD program and even beyond) of your advisor thinking that he/she is your top choice for a program?

 

i.e. is he/she more excited to work with you if he's your first choice ("Wow, I'm so excited for this offer, I accept!") vs if he thinks you're attending his program because you couldn't get in somewhere better?  (Wow, thanks for the offer, you're one of my top choices but I'm still waiting to hear back from other programs...)

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Do you think there's any value long-term (say, over the 5 years of your PhD program and even beyond) of your advisor thinking that he/she is your top choice for a program?

 

No. If anything, the only time I've heard professors talk about someone accepting an offer immediately, it was in astonishment that they didn't take the time to weigh factors such as other offers and questions about the offer from my school.

 

Your advisor is going to develop an opinion of you that is based on your daily interactions and your work; your initial reaction to the offer is outweighed by these other factors.

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Thanks for the help. The post is very helpful, but I have received an acceptance from a university today. It has asked me to fill a form online if I want to accept the offer. No deadline is mentioned. Can you give me an idea that for how much time can I NOT give my decision??

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I don't know if anyone has said this yet, I didn't see it when I quickly scrolled through, but you could always distract them from acceptance with asking for a visit.

 

So in response to getting accepted:

 

"I got accepted? That's fantastic news! I would love to visit the department sometime in [month], how would I go about setting that up?"

 

 

In this way you can avoid the awkwardness of mentioning other schools, you can go see if the department meshes with your personality, and you have expressed the correct amount of enthusiasm and consideration for said school.

 

Just my thought anyway :D

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Thanks for the help. The post is very helpful, but I have received an acceptance from a university today. It has asked me to fill a form online if I want to accept the offer. No deadline is mentioned. Can you give me an idea that for how much time can I NOT give my decision??

 

 

The deadline is usually in April. They should mention it on their website.

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In a similar topic as this, I've heard that mentioning other programs could get another school to up the ante so to speak... as far as funding or other opportunities are concerned. I don't know though if that would ever be appropriate to risk.

 

not sure risk it the right word?

Edited by Kwest
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In a similar topic as this, I've heard that mentioning other programs could get another school to up the ante so to speak... as far as funding or other opportunities are concerned. I don't know though if that would ever be appropriate to risk.

 

not sure risk it the right word?

If you have an offer in writing, you won't lose anything you already have by asking for more, so it's not really a risk. It never hurts to ask, is what I've heard.

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In a similar topic as this, I've heard that mentioning other programs could get another school to up the ante so to speak... as far as funding or other opportunities are concerned. I don't know though if that would ever be appropriate to risk.

 

not sure risk it the right word?

I am not sure whether this is something you want to simply do for fun or personal pleasure but if money is the main criterion for making your decision when weighing two or more great programs against each other, then I think it is reasonable to mention so and see how the school reacts.

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Thanks for the help. The post is very helpful, but I have received an acceptance from a university today. It has asked me to fill a form online if I want to accept the offer. No deadline is mentioned. Can you give me an idea that for how much time can I NOT give my decision??

 

 

Yeah there's a cross-school agreement that you can't ask an applicant to accept or decline an offer before April 15th.

 

Here is the agreement discussed: http://www.cgsnet.org/ckfinder/userfiles/files/CGS_Resolution.pdf

 

It's important to note two things:

 

1. The cross-school agreement is an informal agreement between a lot of schools. There does not seem to be any consequences for the school if they choose to violate this agreement. 

 

2. The agreement is for responding to offers of financial support, not for admission. I think the intent of the agreement is that a school cannot say something like "We offer you a fellowship of $X / year but only if you accept now, before you hear from other schools." 

 

That said, usually financial support and admission go hand-in-hand (few students would accept an offer without financial support!) and indeed the majority of schools and programs will follow this convention and tell you the deadline to respond to both admission and financial support is April 15. They will also link you to that document too!

 

However, the safest bet is to check your actual official admission letter. This is the real contract that governs your relationship with the school. That official letter should have the details of your financial support and the deadline for you to respond. Most likely, it will be April 15 and cite the agreement above. But you should check it just in case. If it doesn't say, I would ask the department instead of assuming it's April 15.

 

Most schools will expect you to have other offers and they will always give you time. I don't think they would ask you right then and there whether or not you would accept the offer.

Edited by TakeruK
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If you have an offer in writing, you won't lose anything you already have by asking for more, so it's not really a risk. It never hurts to ask, is what I've heard.

True. But how do you "up the ante" without offending anyone? While it may not hurt, won't it potentially sour relationships at the school (either school) and make professors think your main concern is money? 

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True. But how do you "up the ante" without offending anyone? While it may not hurt, won't it potentially sour relationships at the school (either school) and make professors think your main concern is money? 

 

yes VBD, I think this was more the 'risk' I was talking about...like, is there a tactful way to up the ante?

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Good question. I think you handle it just like a job. Say you like program A over program B but B is offering more money. You could tell program A that it's your top choice, but that you've been offered X by program B and wondered if program A might be able to get closer to that. Say finances are a concern for you and you want to set yourself up to be as successful as possible, and to be free from financial stress is important. Then you're not telling them their package sucks or anything, and you've flattered them by saying they're you're top choice, and you've been up front about your concerns and what you want.

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Some schools will up their offer if you're still undecided. For example, I know that the University of Washington Biology program tends to offer more competitive funding options to students closer to the acceptance deadline. Your POI there will probably tell you to not accept right away to take advantage of this.

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Hey guys! I was hoping I could get a little guidance with a situation I've gotten myself into. A few weeks ago, one of the schools I was accepted to booked a flight for me to come visit during their visiting weekend. They did this through their travel agency and paid for it themselves, so I did not have to purchase the ticket and then submit for reimbursement or anything. Since then, I've been accepted to a few other programs that I prefer over this one and at this point I honestly don't think I would choose the school I am visiting anymore. I don't want to waste their time or money on a flight but I don't know the proper way to break it to them that I have changed my mind and to ask them to cancel my flight. I am also worried they are going to lose the money for the flight but am hoping they can get refunded - does that happen?

 

Has anyone ever been in a situation like this before? What's the proper etiquette here? I feel like an idiot for booking the flight before hearing back from other schools and I don't want to burn any bridges for any future collaborations. Help! :(

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