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Accepting offers: etiquettes and legal issues

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With one funded offer and several unfunded offers (with promises of funds being allocated *in the next week*, i.e. 6th to 10th), I am starting to get a bit desperate. So I'd be grateful if you all can help me on a few issues.

#1. 10th is a holiday, and so is 13th, I believe. (I live in India, so I haven't got a lot of ideas about US holidays; please correct me if I am wrong). Am I right in assuming that whatever offers are going to come before the 15th, will reach me by the 9th?

#2. Is it all right to accept an offer by sending a signed and scanned copy of the offer in an e-mail? Or should I fax or post? (The university that funded me sent me the funded offer by post after indicating the decision via e-mail) If I post, it will take at least 3 days for the stuff to reach US from India: I will use DHL. So even if I send it on 10th, it's cutting it quite fine I think.

#3. Suppose I get really desperate, and send in the acceptance to school A on the 8th, and school B (which i prefer over school A) gives an offer on the 9th. Can I then decline school A before the 15th, and not need a *release* from school A? I think that the acceptance/ declination of offers is handled by some high-ranking person, and not the guy who reads the e-mail or receives the fax. So the matter will take a few days time at least, and accepting an offer and then declining *just* before the 15th is as good (rather as bad) as declining after the 15th.

Any suggestions/ideas are welcome.

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I don't know about #3, but regarding the other two:

#1. 10th is a holiday, and so is 13th, I believe. (I live in India, so I haven't got a lot of ideas about US holidays; please correct me if I am wrong). Am I right in assuming that whatever offers are going to come before the 15th, will reach me by the 9th?

I don't think most US universities are taking holidays on the 10th and 13th. So, no, I think offers could reach you up until the 15th.

#2. Is it all right to accept an offer by sending a signed and scanned copy of the offer in an e-mail? Or should I fax or post? (The university that funded me sent me the funded offer by post after indicating the decision via e-mail) If I post, it will take at least 3 days for the stuff to reach US from India: I will use DHL. So even if I send it on 10th, it's cutting it quite fine I think.

Ask the program. You may want to ask now (or this coming Monday) what they will accept. I would be surprised if they demanded the acceptance by post on or before the 15th as long as you notify them by email before then, but you should really check with each individual program.

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#1. 10th is a holiday, and so is 13th, I believe. (I live in India, so I haven't got a lot of ideas about US holidays; please correct me if I am wrong). Am I right in assuming that whatever offers are going to come before the 15th, will reach me by the 9th?

No. They could notify you on the anytime up to and including April 15. Often these happen by phone or email so I wouldn't worry about the post not reaching you. While April 10 and 13 are bank holidays, many (non-religious) universities are open then.

#2. Is it all right to accept an offer by sending a signed and scanned copy of the offer in an e-mail? Or should I fax or post? (The university that funded me sent me the funded offer by post after indicating the decision via e-mail) If I post, it will take at least 3 days for the stuff to reach US from India: I will use DHL. So even if I send it on 10th, it's cutting it quite fine I think.

Yes. You can send a signed copy by email and then mail the official one after the 15th. I emailed the program I was accepting on the evening of April 15 (yes, after business hours) last year and said in the email that the hard copy acceptance would be forthcoming via post. (I was at the national conference at the time and actually told my now-advisor that I'd picked his program the next night at a party.) Oh, and once they know, there's no need to spend a bunch of money to make sure it reaches them quickly. Just accept via email/online (do whatever the graduate school needs and send a note to the department), then mail the hard copy.

#3. Suppose I get really desperate, and send in the acceptance to school A on the 8th, and school B (which i prefer over school A) gives an offer on the 9th. Can I then decline school A before the 15th, and not need a *release* from school A? I think that the acceptance/ declination of offers is handled by some high-ranking person, and not the guy who reads the e-mail or receives the fax. So the matter will take a few days time at least, and accepting an offer and then declining *just* before the 15th is as good (rather as bad) as declining after the 15th.

No, you wouldn't need a formal release but it could potentially reflect negatively on you. I would just wait until the 15th to notify everyone (via email, obviously) and then mail things later. Often accept/decline is handled by the department's Director of Graduate Studies... I wouldn't chance it personally.

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I live in Europe and have similar problems. However, I contacted the programs and they said acceptances can be sent via email, even though the signed paperwork needs to follow via postal service (but in this case, it can arrive after April-15th). Why don't you ask what is alright for them?

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Hi rising_star:

Thanks for your inputs on queries. Could you please explain the following quoted point a bit more elaborately. I did not understand the meaning of 'potentially negative impact', as I will anyway not join the school. Also what do you mean by "I wouldn't chance it personally".

""No, you wouldn't need a formal release but it could potentially reflect negatively on you. I would just wait until the 15th to notify everyone (via email, obviously) and then mail things later. Often accept/decline is handled by the department's Director of Graduate Studies... I wouldn't chance it personally.""

I have one more query. Suppose I accept funding offer of a school well before 15th April and then receive another offer on 14th April; then will it be sufficient enough to just mail the earlier school that I am not going to join there even if I have given the acceptance earlier. Or I would require a formal release from the earlier school. I mean, just dropping a mail to my earlier school on 14th April to change my decision is sufficient enough?

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I have one more query. Suppose I accept funding offer of a school well before 15th April and then receive another offer on 14th April; then will it be sufficient enough to just mail the earlier school that I am not going to join there even if I have given the acceptance earlier. Or I would require a formal release from the earlier school. I mean, just dropping a mail to my earlier school on 14th April to change my decision is sufficient enough?

Yes

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Hi rising_star:

Thanks for your inputs on queries. Could you please explain the following quoted point a bit more elaborately. I did not understand the meaning of 'potentially negative impact', as I will anyway not join the school. Also what do you mean by "I wouldn't chance it personally".

""No, you wouldn't need a formal release but it could potentially reflect negatively on you. I would just wait until the 15th to notify everyone (via email, obviously) and then mail things later. Often accept/decline is handled by the department's Director of Graduate Studies... I wouldn't chance it personally.""

I have one more query. Suppose I accept funding offer of a school well before 15th April and then receive another offer on 14th April; then will it be sufficient enough to just mail the earlier school that I am not going to join there even if I have given the acceptance earlier. Or I would require a formal release from the earlier school. I mean, just dropping a mail to my earlier school on 14th April to change my decision is sufficient enough?

Your flip-flop could offend people that you may want collaborate or work with in the future. Why not just wait until the 15th to decide?

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I did not understand the meaning of 'potentially negative impact', as I will anyway not join the school.

If you want to work in academia, you need to understand that each school operates in a larger academic community; just because you decide not to enter a program doesn't mean that you won't, in the future, need a job from that program, members of that program, or friends and colleagues of members of that program. I'm not saying that they will remember your rudeness forever, and tell all of their friends about it, but when they or someone they know is hiring, and they see your resume, they might remember your name and think, oh, that person doesn't keep commitments. In most circumstances, it's simply not a big deal, but if you say yes, and everyone else has said yes, they might reject people on the waitlist because they are out of spots. Then, you say no; sure, they can go to those waitlisted people and ask if they want a spot, but they might have already accepted another offer, and the school is forced to either take one less person then they planned or accept whoever will take them instead of their first choices. Maybe they'll remember the person who caused that inconvenience later, and when a friend who is hiring calls and says, "have you heard of this person?", they will tell them.

If you want to work outside of academia, however, or probably just outside of the US, there is probably no or little potential negative impact.

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I have a question , re- the issue of accepting and then reneging later, to go to another school that you were waitlisted at.

If you know for sure, that you would not attend a school you signed an agreement of acceptance for, if you got into another school in late April, May, June or July. Should you tell the school you agreed to attend before signing something (before April 15th) , to warn them? Or if you do you just have to swallow it and go, not matter what?

What is the proper protocol in this instance?

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I am also in similar situation.

I have an offer from School A and I have to accept/decline it before April 15th. I have admissions interview at School B (better than school A) on April 15th. I am wait listed in School C (one of my top choices). If I accept the offer from School A, but later pull out if I receive offer from School B or School C, do I need a formal release from School A? Will School A let me go? Thanks.

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I don't think reneging on a commitment like this is seen as terrible from the perspective of most departments.

I've been discussing this with a lot of profs (I'll indicate here that my background is in Social Science and Humanities) and their view is that most departments understand when students have to withdraw. You can cite personal reasons or something, don't have to go into a huge explanation about why you can't take the offer.

Now if you did it in September, then that would be bad, but if you're giving them plenty of time to reach into their list of waiting prospectives. I wouldn't lose too much sleep about it. Also, it is really rare that it's going to ruin your prospects of working with profs in the future. Profs work with people based on how substantial their work is or links up with theirs, and they have usually been there, and are not vindictive about this.

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I have a question , re- the issue of accepting and then reneging later, to go to another school that you were waitlisted at.

If you know for sure, that you would not attend a school you signed an agreement of acceptance for, if you got into another school in late April, May, June or July. Should you tell the school you agreed to attend before signing something (before April 15th) , to warn them? Or if you do you just have to swallow it and go, not matter what?

What is the proper protocol in this instance?

Think of it this way. If you don't get into another school, do you want everyone at the school you go to to know that they were always your second choice? Do you want the faculty and other grad students to know that? My guess is no, since that would start you off on an awkward footing. I recommend not telling them, especially because there are no guarantees that you'll get into the other school with funding.

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I am also in similar situation.

I have an offer from School A and I have to accept/decline it before April 15th. I have admissions interview at School B (better than school A) on April 15th. I am wait listed in School C (one of my top choices). If I accept the offer from School A, but later pull out if I receive offer from School B or School C, do I need a formal release from School A? Will School A let me go? Thanks.

Some schools are part of the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), which has rules about the April 15th deadline.

"Acceptance of an offer of financial aid (such as graduate scholarship, fellowship, traineeship, or assistantship) for the next academic year by an actual prospective graduate student completes an agreement which both student and graduate school expect to honor. In those instances in which the student accepts the offer before April 15 and subsequently desires to withdraw, the student may submit in writing a resignation of the appointment at any time through April 15. However, an acceptance given or left in force after April 15 commits the student not to accept another offer without first obtaining a written release from the institution to which a commitment has been made. Similarly, an offer by an institution after April 15 is conditional on presentation by the student of the written release from any previously accepted offer. "

So, you can withdraw your acceptance of an offer without penalty through April 15th. After April 15th, if you have accepted an offer from any school that is a member of the CGS, you will have to get a formal written release from that school before being able to withdraw.

For a list of the CGS schools, go here:

http://www.cgsnet.org/portals/0/pdf/CGS ... ch2009.pdf

Hope that helps! Best of luck!

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