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pressure to accept before April 15th?


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I have been very fortunate to be accepted to a number of programs (to my SHOCK), and so am in that difficult phase of figuring out which one I want to accept.

I still have one more school to hear from (that I think would be my #1 choice.) In the meantime, I have narrowed my choices down to my top 3.

One of those programs randomly decided that I should give them a decision by last Friday. I wrote the professor back and explained that Friday would not be possible as I have not had enough time to consider everything, (including financial aid/program cost), and that I would of course try to make this decision as swiftly as possible. His response had a tone that I didn't appreciate, though he did answer my questions. I just received another email from him answering a few more of my questions, and the final paragraph says: "I had previously asked you for a decision by last Thursday evening or Friday morning at the latest. It is now Sunday. Please be so kind as to let us know your decision no later than 9:00 am PST tomorrow, Monday, April 6, 2009 or we will, indeed, be moving on. As I've communicated previously, we would be pleased to have you join the program if you would like to do so."

So, two questions:

(1) I've not even received ANYTHING official from this university (which is a very well respected, top tier school) regarding my admission or financial aid. (Even schools that did not offer me "aid" in the form of grants did distribute some official forms detailing the federal loans and other loans that would be available to me.) The only thing I have are emails with the professor where he offered me admission. Is that normal??? (The email I just received from him said that he has never had a candidate wonder about receiving official notification before...)

(2) The more important question: Can someone advise me where the "official April 15th" thing comes from? Does this pertain to all graduate schools?

I am loathe to accept this offer until I have heard back from this last remaining school....

(and subsequently this professor's emails are making me less and less inclined towards this program anyways. perhaps upon design? perhaps he is miffed that i didn't accept straight away?)

final side note: these programs take 2 students per year. so i understand that they want to know if i am coming or not, so that they can let someone in off the waitlist and have the class set.

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any suggestions as to how to handle it?

Ignore his deadlines. Contact the DGS, forward him or her the "acceptance" messages you've received from him, and tell the DGS that you need to see an official offer on university letterhead before you can accept or decline, which you will be doing as per the whatever-it's-called agreement by April 15.

And it's patently absurd that he's "never had anyone ask about funding support" before. Either he's never acted as a recruitment contact or he's lying.

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Oops -- I see his claim is he's never had someone ask about an official letter. Again, I find this hard to believe. At any rate, it's certainly not out of bounds for you to ask for one.

One more thing -- they only accept two students? Tough for them. They made you an offer and they will have to wait for your decision. It's that simple.

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No... if there's no money involved -- this wasn't totally clear from your initial post -- accept the offer and wait to hear from the other schools. Then if and when it's time to back out, a simple e-mail should do the trick.

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That's a tough one, as something similar happened to me. I would get emails every few days from the DGS of the program where I was accepted. I mean like I'd get an email every other day asking for my decision for the past few weeks. I was in the states visiting family last week, received an email from this DGS before I got on a plane for a 12 hr. flight, (obviously I didn't respond) and then when I eventually did get back to where I am now living, found another email right when I turned on the computer, and in utter exhaustion I had to decline the offer a bit prematurely because I couldn't take it anymore.

I'm not sure about the rule for unfunded offers. But, and I'm sure if you decide to attend this program, your DGS will be supportive of you, but don't you think they'd be pushy throughout your graduate career?

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Oops -- I see his claim is he's never had someone ask about an official letter. Again, I find this hard to believe. At any rate, it's certainly not out of bounds for you to ask for one.

It is completely normal to expect and receive a paper offer letter (or PDF) from a University for a graduate program. For this professor to claim that students regularly get admitted based on a few emails and his good word is absolute nonsense. It sounds like this is a very small program, but even so. Contact the admissions office or department advisor (by phone, preferably) asap.

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