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Should I withdraw my applications?

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I have just been accepted to my top choice PhD program with full funding. There is one other top choice program I am waiting to hear back from, but I have three other pending applications. I now have no interest in these other three programs. From what I understand, PhD programs (or at least the ones in the field of history/east asian studies) don't have waitlists, and the first round of offers sent out will be the only offers sent. I don't want to deprive a program of a student and also deprive an applicant of a spot in a program that I don't want anymore. Is it normal for applicants to withdraw applications if they've heard back from their top choice school very early? Also, one of those applications I would really like to leave be and find out whether I was accepted, solely for validation purposes. So, if I do go ahead and withdraw the other two, would it be completely unethical to leave the third one be just because I want to be able to say I was accepted to that institution? Or am I worrying about nothing with all this and I should just let my apps run their course?

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I have just been accepted to my top choice PhD program with full funding. There is one other top choice program I am waiting to hear back from, but I have three other pending applications. I now have no interest in these other three programs. From what I understand, PhD programs (or at least the ones in the field of history/east asian studies) don't have waitlists, and the first round of offers sent out will be the only offers sent. I don't want to deprive a program of a student and also deprive an applicant of a spot in a program that I don't want anymore. Is it normal for applicants to withdraw applications if they've heard back from their top choice school very early? Also, one of those applications I would really like to leave be and find out whether I was accepted, solely for validation purposes. So, if I do go ahead and withdraw the other two, would it be completely unethical to leave the third one be just because I want to be able to say I was accepted to that institution? Or am I worrying about nothing with all this and I should just let my apps run their course?

 

First off, congratulations! 

 

Second, I think this might depend on each university, though I'm not sure. I would call or send an email inquiring about it; just explain that you kindly want to withdraw your application to remove yourself from the pool in order to give others a spot if at all possible.

Edited by drownsoda

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Is it normal for applicants to withdraw applications if they've heard back from their top choice school very early? Also, one of those applications I would really like to leave be and find out whether I was accepted, solely for validation purposes. So, if I do go ahead and withdraw the other two, would it be completely unethical to leave the third one be just because I want to be able to say I was accepted to that institution? Or am I worrying about nothing with all this and I should just let my apps run their course?

 

I withdrew several applications once I was accepted to my first two choices and it became clear to me that I would not attend the other schools whose applications were still pending, in case I got accepted. I also made sure to decline offers from schools as soon as I wasn't considering them anymore, in case that could be helpful to anyone. I wasn't entirely sure whether these schools had a waitlist, but anyway I thought the decent thing to do was to save others the uncertainty of being on the waitlist or possibly getting rejected. I understand how it would be nice for one's ego to be able to count those applications as acceptances, but to be honest in the long run I've drawn a lot more satisfaction from knowing that I didn't deprive anyone else of the chance to go to grad school than from knowing that I might have been admitted to these schools (and immediately declined). After all, I got into my top choices and had a great grad school career. Once you're in school, no one really cares what other offers you had. I think it might have been discussed in the beginning of our first year, but it's not really been a topic ever since.

 

As for your second choice, I think you need to sit down and be very honest with yourself. Are you considering this option at all? If you might consider it, then you should give yourself a chance to get the offer and evaluate it then. If you do get the offer, you will have earned it fairly. As long as you are still considering it, I think it's fair to wait and see. However, if you are definitely going to attend your first choice school and you don't see any chance you'll change your mind, then I think the mature thing to do is to let go of it, despite the possible "damage" to your pride. 

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Congratulations! I think that you should let the applications go through. Not only did you put all that effort and money into them, but you will always wonder about the results. Also, what if something happens with your top choice school? For example, the school I agreed to in April had my POI drop out of the department by June. What if that happens? What if it's something else just as unforeseen? I am a cautious person, so I say wait. You can celebrate this achievement and be happy but still be safe.

 

However I also understand the agony of being waitlisted to my first choice! So if you do get offers to other schools that are not your second or even third choice, release them as soon as possible so they can be offered to others. But honestly it is so early now I don't see any harm in letting all your applications go through!

Edited by iphi

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I received my top acceptance in Dec., accepted the offer, and withdrew the rest of my applications the second week in Jan.  

 

Yes, we do put in a lot of "effort and money" into our applications, but consider your ultimate goal.  Regardless of if you get acceptances or denials, you won't get any of your "effort and money" back, so that should not be a deciding factor.  Those are the risks you take to reach your ultimate goal. 

 

Unless you are not 100 percent sure that you want to attend your top choice, then I am advising you to withdraw the remaining applications.  Sometimes it is okay to humble ourselves for others; especially those who are in their second/third application cycles.  

 

Think positive and positive things will happen in your life.  The same goes for thinking negative.  One ounce of doubt may cause one to miss out on great opportunities. 

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I don't know if it's different in other disciplines, but I've always been told to withdraw any pending applications once I know I won't say yes to a program if it admits me. The thought behind that is that this process isn't about collecting as many trophies as you can, but keeping your eye on the prize while being conscious that not withdrawing an application somewhere you wouldn't go anyway may cost someone on the wait list their top choice or perhaps only choice. It's the neighborly thing to do :)

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First of all, absolutely make sure you have your funding offer in writing from your top choice school before you withdraw your other applications. You need to make sure this is all official and that the amount is something that you can live with. I have heard horror stories about financial offers made over the phone being diminished significantly or withdrawn completely when push comes to shove. 

 

Only once that consideration is safely out of the way should you then take this next step. Keep your second choice open. You may very well learn of mitigating factors that tarnish your first choice in the coming months, and I think it is perfectly reasonable to at least keep one backup option this early in the game. 

Edited by TXInstrument11

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I don't know if it's different in other disciplines, but I've always been told to withdraw any pending applications once I know I won't say yes to a program if it admits me. The thought behind that is that this process isn't about collecting as many trophies as you can, but keeping your eye on the prize while being conscious that not withdrawing an application somewhere you wouldn't go anyway may cost someone on the wait list their top choice or perhaps only choice. It's the neighborly thing to do :)

 

100% this. Just put yourself in the position of another application. In order to accept you, just so you can know you got accepted there, they have to turn away an applicant. It may be that applicant's dream school. :( If you're completely set on this one program, and funding offers/everything else are good to go, then you should withdraw other applications. Unless you think that one of the programs may be able to sway you from your top choice, then keep that option open. But if you're sure, then keeping your app in is hurting someone else's chances.

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First of all, absolutely make sure you have your funding offer in writing from your top choice school before you withdraw your other applications. You need to make sure this is all official and that the amount is something that you can live with. I have heard horror stories about financial offers made over the phone being diminished significantly or withdrawn completely when push comes to shove. 

 

Only once that consideration is safely out of the way should you then take this next step. Keep your second choice open. You may very well learn of mitigating factors that tarnish your first choice in the coming months, and I think it is perfectly reasonable to at least keep one backup option this early in the game. 

 

Yes, this is important to keep in mind. An unofficial acceptance and verbal promise for full funding is not the same as having an official offer in writing. Don't do anything until you're sure you have accepted another offer and everything seems to be going well. I'm not sure about keeping a second choice just in case but I suppose it's possible if it makes you feel better, at least until you're certain things are good. There is always the possibility of something going wrong but unless there are any reasons to think it might, I don't think it makes a lot of sense to plan for that eventuality.

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I'd just like to clarify. Funding is essential. Don't withdraw your applications until you're SURE you will turn down the program anyway, based on your interest in said program and whether they have sent an official acceptance and are funding you. So if you applied to six programs and are accepted to your second choice WITH funding, you should withdraw your application from your fifth and sixth schools. The key here is withdrawing applications from programs you KNOW you would turn down anyway, not withdrawing the application to your second choice when you feel like it is starting to be your first choice because you got accepted to your first choice which is now more like second choice (that's a mouthful, but I hope you can see the difference between that and withdrawing an application from a program low on your list once you've received an offer from one higher).

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I agree with everyone else that:

 

1. Do not consider any offers as official until you get an official letter of acceptance with the details of your financial offer (i.e. dollar amounts) in writing. Even a "written" letter like an unofficial email is not enough.

 

2. It is a good practice to withdraw your applications once you know for certain (like actually 100% certain) that you will say no to them no matter what their program is like or what they will offer you. If you still have some possibility of attending, then don't withdraw your application.

 

3. Related to the above, keep in mind that some schools can look very different on paper than in reality. Two of my schools were very different than I expected after actually visiting them (one became a lot more appealing, another became a lot less appealing). 

 

For me, I did not make any decisions until I visited my top choice and determined that yes, I would actually be happy there. Once I confirmed that, I turned down / withdrew remaining schools that I knew for certain I would not choose over my current top choice. 

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As others have said, make sure you have everything in writing before you withdraw your applications. I think it's nice of you to withdraw your applications and open up spots for others. The one caveat I would add is that visiting can change things. I had two top schools for my MA program, both fully funded. After visiting, I knew that one of them would not work for me and that the other one would (I visited both in the same week basically). Had I accepted that one program and withdrawn my other applications, I would've been in a real bind after that first visit (the first one was the school I realized wouldn't work and then I spent a few days worrying that the other program would be equally disappointing when I visited). Be careful that you don't put yourself into a weird situation.

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From what I understand, PhD programs (or at least the ones in the field of history/east asian studies) don't have waitlists, and the first round of offers sent out will be the only offers sent. I don't want to deprive a program of a student and also deprive an applicant of a spot in a program that I don't want anymore. 

 

Oh also, to respond to this specific point, I don't think it is your responsibility to worry about this beyond what was said above (i.e. withdraw only when you are 100% certain you will not accept). If it's not 100% certain, do not worry about the issue you raise here!

 

My program is also one that only makes one set of offers and because they only make one, they factor in the likelihood of people declining when choosing to make the offer. In some cases, the cutoff they decide is based on the quality of applicants, not necessarily the exact number. For example, my program often makes about 40 admits, but the precise number usually depends on where the cutoff naturally lies. That is, if they have 39 offers that they committee have already agreed upon and there's two additional almost-equal candidates, they are going to take both of them (or none of them). In cases like this, your early withdrawal would not make much difference.

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Thank you everyone for your responses! 

 

@drownsoda: Thank you for the congratulations.

 

I had not thought about the fact that the email is still an unofficial acceptance. In the professor's email, it does say that the formal offer of admission will arrive in the coming weeks. I have no reason to suspect my offer would be revoked, but nonetheless it is better to be safe rather than sorry. I will wait till I receive my official letter of acceptance before withdrawing any other applications. 

 

I am quite certain that the program is a good fit. I lived on the campus for a month this summer while participating in a workshop run by the professor who would be my advisor if I attend this program. I have spoken extensively with students who are in the program, and who applied to the program, and have friends who are in related programs at the same school. I know that the funding offered by this school is the best in the field, and while I was there I spoke to other professors who I plan to work with. Unfortunately the city it is in does give me pause, but I have promised my husband I will wait to hear back from my second choice school anyway since he would prefer the other city. Long story short, I am extremely familiar with the program, and feel confident about it, but will still wait to receive my official acceptance letter, just to be safe. And then I will withdraw my applications from any programs I have not yet heard back from.

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Thank you everyone for your responses! 

 

@drownsoda: Thank you for the congratulations.

 

I had not thought about the fact that the email is still an unofficial acceptance. In the professor's email, it does say that the formal offer of admission will arrive in the coming weeks. I have no reason to suspect my offer would be revoked, but nonetheless it is better to be safe rather than sorry. I will wait till I receive my official letter of acceptance before withdrawing any other applications. 

 

I am quite certain that the program is a good fit. I lived on the campus for a month this summer while participating in a workshop run by the professor who would be my advisor if I attend this program. I have spoken extensively with students who are in the program, and who applied to the program, and have friends who are in related programs at the same school. I know that the funding offered by this school is the best in the field, and while I was there I spoke to other professors who I plan to work with. Unfortunately the city it is in does give me pause, but I have promised my husband I will wait to hear back from my second choice school anyway since he would prefer the other city. Long story short, I am extremely familiar with the program, and feel confident about it, but will still wait to receive my official acceptance letter, just to be safe. And then I will withdraw my applications from any programs I have not yet heard back from.

I'm glad we could help. Obviously (by my post), I think this is the safest option for you. Btw, it is really nice that you are considering other applicants as well.  :)

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PhD programs definitely DO have wait lists. If you don't want to go to a program and you have an official offer (espeically one attached to funding) from 1 or 2 choice schools, withdraw your applications from your back up schools. This lets them know that they need to make additional offers; they want to do that before candidates on their wait list accept somewhere else, too, or else they can't fill up all the spots for the upcoming class. Interviewed at a place where they had this problem last year, btw. Students didn't decline soon enough, and their wait list ended up not being deep enough to fill all their spots.
 

 

In the professor's email, it does say that the formal offer of admission will arrive in the coming weeks. I have no reason to suspect my offer would be revoked, but nonetheless it is better to be safe rather than sorry. I will wait till I receive my official letter of acceptance before withdrawing any other applications.

 

This is a solid move, although I think you could probably withdraw at places that are lower on your list at this point. Keep your app in at your #2 until you get the official paper, although there's no reason to think you're not in at this point.

Edited by poweredbycoldfusion

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