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Deadline to accept a PhD offer in Mech Eng.

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Dear all,

I am new to this site, and I am an international student.

I was recently accepted for PhD studies with full funding in a US university (which is ranked in top 10 in Mech Eng.). I am definitely interested in this university and in the proposed offer, however, since I applied to many universities in Dec. 2015, I prefer to wait for the other universities before taking my final decision. Is there in general a deadline to accept/refuse an offer ? (I did not receive any deadline yet by this university).

Furthermore, I have read on the internet that 15 April is a general deadline for graduate schools ("Students are under no obligation to respond to offers of financial support prior to April 15", as mentioned in CGS website). To how extent this is true ? Also, do all the universities (private/public) respect this deadline, or some of them may give a sooner deadline ?

Moreover, some of the universities to which I have applied may answer me in February or March. In this case, is it OK to keep the university in which I was accepted at hold for some weeks so that I can receive the other decisions/offers ? Are there in general any recommendations for such situations ?

Thank you very much,


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Did the university you've been admitted to provide any information about a deadline to accept or decline their offer in the letter? There's usually a provided deadline. That said, as long as you reply by the deadline, then it's fine. It's preferred that you reject an acceptance once you know you will not go there but, it's also not required that you do so.

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It is okay to ask the school about the deadline. They will probably tell you April 15, but you should check if it's not explicitly stated anywhere.

For the CGS website regarding April 15, it's respected by most PhD programs and it doesn't matter if they're public or private as long as they appear on the list. However, there are three important things to keep in mind:
1. The agreement to have a April 15 deadline is for financial support offers only, not admission. So, some schools that are only offering admission but no financial support could ask you for an earlier deadline.
2. It's not a legally binding agreement---even if a school is listed on the PDF, they can break it with no penalty.
3. It's only the graduate school at each school that signs the agreement. Other programs that are not administered by the Graduate School (e.g. professional programs) are usually not part of the agreement. As you are in Engineering, you are probably okay but just saying.

Once you know the deadline, here are some best practices / tips:

a. Every time you get more information, re-evaluate and make decisions. For example, if it is March 1 and now you have 5 offers, you probably can decide which 2 or 3 are your top choices. Once you do this, decline the bottom two. Most people suggest you don't keep more than 2 (or 3) offers at the same time, as soon as you get a new one, decide which is the least favourite and remove it (after you visit and/or get all the information you need to make a good decision). Sometimes you do want to keep many offers though, if you have other complications (e.g. someone else applying to grad school and you want to be in the same city etc.)

b. Keep your top schools updated. Acknowledge the original offer and then if you are still deciding in March, let them know that you plan to make a decision by X date or something. Usually by March, you would know all the results and it might just be a matter of visiting one or two more schools to make your final choice. 2 or 3 days after your final visit, you should be ready to make a final choice.

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