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Accepting 2 offers?


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So, this is the time of year that everyone has (hopefully) tough choices. My top choice, a top 5 program, just accepted me off the wait list, but their funding offer is pretty weak (I would need ~15k in loans the first year). They mentioned that more funding may become available after the 4/15 deadline.

 

Another school offered me a very generous funding package several weeks ago. This school has a solid program, ~top 25, but it just doesn't carry the same weight as my top choice.

 

My question: Does anyone have experience/insight with accepting two offers, in the hope of receiving additional funding after the 4/15 deadline?

 

In this hypothetical situation, I would obviously lose a deposit and likely burn a bridge with one of the schools. Not exactly the way I envisioned things, but I'm feeling pretty disappointed with getting off the wait list yet still coming up short at the finish line (financially). Thoughts?

 

*This is for a PhD in a health/biomedical sciences field.

Edited by gnarls_barkley
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Dont ever pay for PhD in STEM fields. Go with the generous offer.

The ranking difference is not that large, anyway.

I agree with this. Go to the school that is interested in having you as a student... A school that is giving so little funding that you would need that much loans is not that interested in convincing you to come to the school. A top 25 program is still a great school! I would take that offer and reject the other.

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Dont ever pay for PhD in STEM fields. Go with the generous offer.

The ranking difference is not that large, anyway. 

 I won't make such a blanketed statement. It all depends on your goal after completing PhD. If one wants to stay in Academia, a more reputed and higher ranked school always helps, and it definitely doesn't hurt when looking at Industry jobs either (but the difference is less for Industrial jobs).

 

I am in a pretty similar situation as well, but likely to go with the higher ranked program which gave me a sub-par offer :unsure:. There is too much uncertainty involved with PhD anyway, and the only thing certain when you accept the offer is the name of the university on your resume and (hopefully) degree.

 

There is no guarantee that one can get the first choice adviser in any school, and there is no guarantee that you will fall in love with the place after you go there. But at least in a larger and higher ranked department, you are likely to have more people doing work in your areas of interest, and more opportunities. Even if you don't do a stellar PhD with your first choice guide, you can always get away with doing an average PhD. An average PhD from a top 5 school will certainly be a better scenario than an average PhD from a top 25 school (the university brand will help).

 

Unless you are 100% certain you can work with a good POI, and know for sure that your personalities will match, I will be inclined to go towards the higher ranked program, even if it means taking out a loan. I suggest you ask the top 5 school about your chances of funding in the future, and if their response is very positive, you should go there IMO. (~15k is not that big of a loan too!)

Edited by compscian
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Thanks for the responses, all. The mix has been pretty similar to what I've heard from faculty and students I've asked. 

 

My field doesn't have as many industry options as other STEM fields, so academia is probably the first choice. I am leaning a bit toward the top 5 school, but I definitely see the drawbacks (financial and non-financial). I'm going to speak with them and see what is the likelihood of additional funding after the deadline and beyond.

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I would be wary of the idea that you'll get additional funding after 4/15. I think according to the CGS agreement, you cannot accept two offers, but you can ask to back out of your commitment to one school so you can go to another.

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Yeah, so definitely don't accept two offers.

 

Sure, a higher ranking helps, but in a field like engineering (where good academic jobs are in large supply because engineers can make more money in non-academic jobs) a top 25 department is going to do pretty well in placing their students in top jobs. Even in fields where there aren't many non-academic options, top 25 departments tend to do okay.

 

Personally, I don't think you should borrow to go to a PhD program at all. Over 5 years that's $75,000. And is that $15,000 of loans just to cover the tuition shortfall? Because if that doesn't including living expenses, then you will need to borrow for that, too.

 

You have an excellent program that wants you and is willing to pay you. I would take that.

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Yeah, so definitely don't accept two offers.

Sure, a higher ranking helps, but in a field like engineering (where good academic jobs are in large supply because engineers can make more money in non-academic jobs) a top 25 department is going to do pretty well in placing their students in top jobs. Even in fields where there aren't many non-academic options, top 25 departments tend to do okay.

Personally, I don't think you should borrow to go to a PhD program at all. Over 5 years that's $75,000. And is that $15,000 of loans just to cover the tuition shortfall? Because if that doesn't including living expenses, then you will need to borrow for that, too.

You have an excellent program that wants you and is willing to pay you. I would take that.

Thanks for the response! I think it's pretty clear now that accepting 2 offers would be a huge no-no.

My field is actually public health (epidemiology), so top 25 here may not mean as much when thinking about other fields that have dozens or more programs.

Do you have any insight on how the non-academic market is for public health?

Edited by gnarls_barkley
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I'd just like to chime in that doing a PhD in a top 25 program that's well funded would help you enjoy your time a bit better since you won't have to worry about loans and such. Then you could do a postdoc at a higher ranked program to help you get your foot in the door with an academic position. The less worried you are about the living expenses the more time you would have to focus on your research and produce good publications - which would help you get that postdoc and then academic job.

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