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How to respond to offer from "safety" school?


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One of the schools I applied to emailed me with an informal offer today. The professor said he would call in the next day or two to talk to me about the department, the program, etc. I have a feeling that one of the the questions that will come up would be how likely it is that I end up attending the program.


This is my first acceptance, and I'm super excited about it. I use "safety" to describe this school only for the lack of a better word, this school isn't one of my "top 3" choices, but they have made a generous offer and I can see myself being happy and doing good work there. I would have no regrets attending this school, and I'm really grateful for their offer.


On the other hand, I'm still expecting a lot of decisions to come within the next week or two, and if I get an offer from one of my "top 3" schools, I probably won't end up attending this school. The email mentioned that they are nominating me for a fellowship, and I think the deal with fellowships is that if I am nominated and awarded, but don't attend, then the department will lose that fellowship.


Are their etiquettes for these kind of things? Would it be ok if I just told her that I will need more time to hear back from other programs before I can make a decision? What if she presses me for a more specific answer? Any advice appreciated.

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The fellowship adds a complicating factor, but I think it is reasonable to say what you did above:

"they have made a generous offer and I can see myself being happy and doing good work there."


I also think it is fine to say you can't make a decision until you hear back from other programs and get an idea of how everyone's offers will differ, and you'd like to visit the program (if their is an admitted student weekend) before you commit.


Find out if what you said above is true. If they have a tight timeline to nominate for the fellowship, and they will lose it if you decline, then I think you have to be very honest and say when you expect to be able to commit by. If it is after their deadline on the funding, you need to say that so they can nominate someone else who will 100% be attending--by hoarding the option and then declining you would be depriving the school of support for another student who may not have any other options.

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a caring program will not want you to give an immediate acceptance anyway. you should be invited to visit. you should be encouraged to look at all of your options and make the choice that is best for you.


of course, they are hoping you will choose them if they give you a fellowship (and maybe you should! don't underestimate what a fellowship means and what opportunities it offers...perhaps you should reevaluate your top 3 if you get a fellowship offer). regardless of what the offer is, it would be asking too much to expect an immediate yes before you hear from all of the programs to which you applied.

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I went through a similar situation but I already had an acceptance from one of my top choices so I politely declined. I would just say that you would be very interested and happy in working there but that you'd need a bit more time to make a final decision on accepting since you haven't heard back from all the programs you applied to.

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