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VulpesZerda

Trying to mentally navigate the possibilities

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I know that my brain is being irrational. I need to make sure, though. Mulling over these possibilities for the past few months is taking its toll on me.

 

So, I applied to 10 programs because my field is stupidly competitive. I (like many people) identified what I thought my top choice was. I have been accepted to one program that was in the middle of the pack on my initial list. The POI first expressed interest in me way back during the first week of January, and the official acceptance came a couple weeks later in mid/late January with 5 years of funding. This is very early, and the program is only taking a couple of new students so I felt pretty special about it. I'm visiting in March.

 

Fast forward to now, and I still don't have any other acceptances. I have a few wait-lists and rejections, and have seen activity on the Results Search for others, so I pretty much know my status with most of these 10 programs. But I have not heard from my "top choice" program, and apparently no one else that uses TGC has, either. This has me thinking a lot of different things - is their funding messed up? Unreliable? Do they just not have their act together? Their deadline was Dec 1! Should I email them when it gets closer to my visit to the other school?

 

I guess my issue is that because my acceptance from the first program came so early, it's tricking my brain into getting used to the idea of going there. Being my first acceptance, especially when I was half-expecting to get shut out completely, this school has become quite romanticized in my mind. For well over a month now that's been my only actual option - I talk about this school to everyone who asks me how it's going, and I even looked at apartment listings to get an idea of that stuff.

 

I also am starting to wonder if this particular program just has their act together, is higher quality, and is actually more interested in me since they reached out so early. If it ever came down to choosing between this one and my initial top choice, should I take their efficiency and early interest in me into consideration? I know that in decision-making processes, this attempt to rationalize can be normal, but am still wondering what you might think. Sorry that was quite long; thanks for reading!

Edited by VulpesZerda

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I totally know what you mean...I've been half tempted to accept one of my offers because they're there and waiting for the rest is killer. However, there is a reason that pending program was your top choice, and I think it's worth waiting to see what they say. Just because they haven't started notifying doesn't mean they don't have their stuff together. It could be something as simple as working around the various admissions committee members' schedules. They might receive a considerably higher number of applications. Maybe the way their term is scheduled affects when adcomms can meet, or perhaps it's an especially tough year and they're having trouble deciding. Whatever the case, it's pretty common for admits to get attached to their first offer. I remember sobbing and laughing simultaneously, a reaction that hasn't occurred for any subsequent offers because the first one is so full of relief, it's just different.

Bottom line, I would wait it out and see where all the cards fall. You took the time putting together 10 applications, unless you know for sure you wouldn't attend the ones that you're waiting on, I'd sit it out til the end.

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I totally know what you mean...I've been half tempted to accept one of my offers because they're there and waiting for the rest is killer. However, there is a reason that pending program was your top choice, and I think it's worth waiting to see what they say. Just because they haven't started notifying doesn't mean they don't have their stuff together. It could be something as simple as working around the various admissions committee members' schedules. They might receive a considerably higher number of applications. Maybe the way their term is scheduled affects when adcomms can meet, or perhaps it's an especially tough year and they're having trouble deciding. Whatever the case, it's pretty common for admits to get attached to their first offer. I remember sobbing and laughing simultaneously, a reaction that hasn't occurred for any subsequent offers because the first one is so full of relief, it's just different.

Bottom line, I would wait it out and see where all the cards fall. You took the time putting together 10 applications, unless you know for sure you wouldn't attend the ones that you're waiting on, I'd sit it out til the end.

 

Very good points - thank you. I guess this post was my way of saying I can't do this waiting anymore! Also, good to know it's normal to get attached to the first offer.

Edited by VulpesZerda

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I had a similar situation - I was accepted in December, and didn't hear from anyone else for about 7 weeks. I also romanticized going to that school, was looking at apartments, transit, etc.. I had convinced myself I'd probably take this offer over most of the other schools. I then visited and liked it. I have also since pretty much decided not to attend. I got offers from other schools and thought about it carefully, and realized it is probably not the best choice after all. It does make me a bit sad as I had gotten attached to the idea.

 

Definitely don't jump too soon.

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I had a similar situation - I was accepted in December, and didn't hear from anyone else for about 7 weeks. I also romanticized going to that school, was looking at apartments, transit, etc.. I had convinced myself I'd probably take this offer over most of the other schools. I then visited and liked it. I have also since pretty much decided not to attend. I got offers from other schools and thought about it carefully, and realized it is probably not the best choice after all. It does make me a bit sad as I had gotten attached to the idea.

 

Definitely don't jump too soon.

 

Thanks! I've always said I wouldn't cave in and call or email any programs, but it's getting hard to resist. Is March an acceptable time to do this? I would just need to know from this one, the top choice program, to have "all my cards". Then I'd have to consider my chances of getting off waitlists/my willingness to remain on them. Then decide! Can you tell I want to get this over with?! :)

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Thanks! I've always said I wouldn't cave in and call or email any programs, but it's getting hard to resist. Is March an acceptable time to do this? I would just need to know from this one, the top choice program, to have "all my cards". Then I'd have to consider my chances of getting off waitlists/my willingness to remain on them. Then decide! Can you tell I want to get this over with?! :)

As long as it's not well before any date they might list on the website about when they should make decisions, I think it's fine.

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As long as it's not well before any date they might list on the website about when they should make decisions, I think it's fine.

 

I just checked - they said they make decisions by April 1. That's much later than I had hoped. I know that the program I'm accepted to can't force me to decide before April 15, but I was also told they appreciate knowing before then, and I don't blame them.

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It's awesome that you're considerate of what the program wants, but you need to look out for your best interests. If the program you're waiting on is worth it, I would hold off on deciding until they get back to you. Good luck!

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I've done the exact same thing as you, VulpesZerda, in terms of romanticizing the program that accepted me early. I even started an apartment spreadsheet of my living options there, and asked my advisor for some reading suggestions to get me ready for the program. I keep fighting the urge to just click 'accept' on their offer, since no one else has gotten back to me yet -- I keep fighting off this thought of "Well, even if they do accept me eventually, I clearly wouldn't be high on their list of choices, so I'm probably better off with the people who wanted me right away." I really think that people who get into PhD programs ought to start making a concentrated effort to "pay it forward" for others in the applications process by actively encouraging universities to work on better/more efficacious/kinder methods for selecting students. If students who are actually in the programs start communicating more with professors about how atrocious the process is at present and offering better suggestions at the same time, maybe we could make it better for people in the future. And that, honestly, would be win-win for the universities, too.

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I really think that people who get into PhD programs ought to start making a concentrated effort to "pay it forward" for others in the applications process by actively encouraging universities to work on better/more efficacious/kinder methods for selecting students. If students who are actually in the programs start communicating more with professors about how atrocious the process is at present and offering better suggestions at the same time, maybe we could make it better for people in the future. And that, honestly, would be win-win for the universities, too.

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Telling them how in a rude way is a bad idea and telling them how the minute you get accepted is another bad idea, but giving constructive feedback after you've built relationships is often appreciated.  The good professors care about doing their jobs well and usually also care about students.  They don't WANT this process to suck out our souls (though it's fun to joke that they do).  I've offered feedback to professors before on how to improve something and they've thanked me and sometimes even tried it (and then thanked me more).  If you come at something with a complaint, then people don't respond positively, but if you come with suggestions for doing it better (and those suggestions make the process better for both sides), then people will often listen.

 

Bottom line:  Nothing ever improves until someone works up the nerve to point out that it could use improvement.

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Telling them how in a rude way is a bad idea and telling them how the minute you get accepted is another bad idea, but giving constructive feedback after you've built relationships is often appreciated.  The good professors care about doing their jobs well and usually also care about students.  They don't WANT this process to suck out our souls (though it's fun to joke that they do).  I've offered feedback to professors before on how to improve something and they've thanked me and sometimes even tried it (and then thanked me more).  If you come at something with a complaint, then people don't respond positively, but if you come with suggestions for doing it better (and those suggestions make the process better for both sides), then people will often listen.

 

Bottom line:  Nothing ever improves until someone works up the nerve to point out that it could use improvement.

 

FWIW, I had views similar to yours until (a) I and other members of my cohort took our qualifying exams and worked as a teaching assistant. In regards to the former, I found that even the most conscientious professors took a measure of delight in the suffering of graduate students. In regards to the latter, it eventually dawned on me that some professors are more interested in feedback on issues that are not of critical importance to them and that there were often methods to their madness.

 

From these experiences, I've drawn the conclusion that the optimal time to offer suggestions is when one is asked, that sometimes the "problem" is mine and no one else's, and that having what you call nerve is not about pointing out the shortcomings in an existing process but finding ways to implement alternative solutions that work within the context of those existing processes.

 

YMMV.

Edited by Sigaba

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