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Potential ethical dilemma in need of help by end of Feb: rolling-admission program asks me to respond much earlier than 415


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I received a lovely admission offer with financial support from a Public Health PhD program (I'll refer to it as X program) very early. However, X requires that I respond by date N in late February, while I'm still waiting to hear back from a few other programs. I have interviewed for some of the other programs. I don't expect to hear back from these programs by date N from what I recently learned. I have asked X to extend my deadline TWICE already before February. X specifically told me that they cannot wait until close to April 15 to hear from me because 1) they are competing with other programs for academically strong students and 2) I assume they need the spot for other candidates that come along later. I would like to attend X, if rejected by other better choices (there are about three of them), none of which has confirmed my status. All above programs are inside universities that signed the 415 resolution.

1. I'm not leaning toward asking X to extend my timeline again since: 1) I already did it twice; 2) I don't know when I can get confirmation from other programs as many have delayed making a final decision this year due to unpredictability in funding; and 3) because of # 2), I don't feel I can think of a reasonable extended timeline to suggest except April 15, which they had said they couldn't agree to.

2. I'm thinking about accepting this offer. After all, I might have already been rejected by the other programs that I haven't heard from. But, can I possibly withdraw my acceptance if a better offer comes up elsewhere? I will send out notice asap of course if this happens. If this is ethically unpreferred, is it even acceptable under the 415 resolution? My admission letter at this point is from the department. It doesn't say  that I cannot withdraw acceptance of the offer. It didn't attach the 415 resolution either.

3. Is it common for rolling-admission programs to have early deadlines? I'm having doubts regarding making the spot available for other candidates. They can always create a waitlist for later applicants and extend an offer provided that they are not admitted into better choices?

I'm so lost right now. I would appreciate input!


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From what I know, asking students to accept or deny offers before April 15 is considered unethical in and of itself in the grad school field, so X program is already being kind of unreasonable asking you to make a decision when you don't have all your cards on the table yet. You shouldn't be pressured into going to a school you're not completely sold on because they've decided that they want to kind of force students into picking their school by closing them out of their other options. If this program is going to insist on doing this, then they can't exactly be surprised if students accept and then withdraw their acceptance.

If I were you, I'd accept it but be ready to withdraw if a better program accepts you. I really don't like the idea of schools pretty much forcing the hands of their students, so I figure they get what they get.

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I agree - it's not fair for them to ask you to officially accept before the 15th - that's a contract that schools of public health have come to. Accept and be ready to withdraw if necessary. 

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