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Rejecting my advisors admission offer


RBspkRuP
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I received an offer to a school that is stronger than my alma matter and is providing way more funding. My professor is on sabbatical so the conversation for decision hasn't been very organic. We have done some Skype sessions, but that definitely isn't the same as to just popping by their office to talk. My professor really wants me to work with him and has put in so much time into me...I just know he will be angry and since I decided on doing the masters, I will need him as a reference for re-applying this fall. I have so much anxiety on writing him this email to let him know....I don't know what to say to soften the blow. I said months ago that my alma matter was top, but that was more anxiety talking (not wanting to move & change).  

Should I mention I will be applying to grad school again this fall? Or wait for time to cool off? I am just scared that I am going to get a very terse response back and end our relationship completely that he totally disregards everything I do and screw myself over for re-applying to grad school. I realize so many people are like "professors want you to go to better schools" but this isn't the feeling I have gotten from my supervisor (he has pushed attending my alma matter for my PhD and that it is totally fine to do all your schooling at one school-- even though everyone says it isn't).  Does anyone have any advice on what I can write or do in this situation? Honestly, my fear over his response has been the one thing that makes me want to stay at my alma matter even though I would be unhappy to stay here. :(:(

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There are a couple of points in your post that I'd like to clarify as I'm not sure that I follow everything you said.

I understand that your undergrad prof thinks you are going to remain at the same school and work with him while completing a one year master's degree. Is this correct? 

You have decided that you want to take a better offer at another school for your 1 year master's and you don't know how to break the news to him, You're also concerned about asking him for a reference for a PhD program in the near future because you will need to apply to PhD programs this fall which will begin in fall of 2018.

Is this it in a nutshell? 

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I think the sooner you tell him the better it will because because a lot of the other top candidates may not have committed to a school yet, so he still have a chance to get a top candidate to replace you.

I think it would be appropriate to thank him for his time and commitment to helping you launch your educational path and career (if he played that kind of mentorship role. I wasn't sure based on your post). Then tell him what makes the admissions offer to his school so attractive (basically compliment him and the program/school). Then tell him it was a very difficult decision to make but you unexpectedly received an offer you couldn't refuse (which explains why you changed your mind about the school later on).

I wouldn't mention that it's a better school or department than your alma mater. But if there are other factors that went into making this decision that you are comfortable in briefly mentioning then you could do that next. For instance, if they were offering you very little money and this school is offering a lot, you could say "due to financial reasons, I have decided to accept another offer." But be careful using that reason if the financial offers are similar because they might offer to match it. Or if they offered you a strong funding package, then I wouldn't use funding as a reason. You might say something about wanting to grow professionally and academically, being exposed to new ideas in a different academic setting and wanting to expand your professional network.

Once you let him know, I think you will later on feel a sense of relief. I'm sure this has happened to him a number of times in the past. That's why he's been working so hard to recruit you, right? But this is probably the first time you're in this kind of situation so understandably it is making you feel uncomfortable and stressed. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

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@thelionking yes you are essentially correct, except at my alma matter it would be a two year masters. Yes, he hopes I will remain and I wasn't sure which way I would go till I went to a school visit.

"You have decided that you want to take a better offer at another school for your 1 year master's and you don't know how to break the news to him, You're also concerned about asking him for a reference for a PhD program in the near future because you will need to apply to PhD programs this fall which will begin in fall of 2018."

Exactly the concern! 

The other school is offering me significantly more (more than 10K even with my alma matter's upped offer). Overall, it is a highly recognized school and since it is a shorter program will ensure I want to continue onto a PhD. I also really want to move for the first time and live on my own! That is true, I will reject the offer from the school on Monday. I just wanted to let him know ahead of time...I just feel so bad like I used him and all his effort in teaching me over the past 4 years. I honestly feel like I am betraying him by leaving :(

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He would love to have you work with him because he enjoyed having you as a student, genuinely believe you have potential, and would be thrilled to be the one to help you reach it. But the purpose of teaching isn't to constrain students; it's to guide them while they discover their own paths. If your professor is indeed a quality mentor, then he should understand that. You aren't "betraying" him by going elsewhere; you're taking his legacy elsewhere. Think of your teacher as a parent. How many parents wish with all their hearts that their kids would stay close to home and spend time with their family? But how many parents would be upset at their children for achieving great things elsewhere? As long as you express your appreciation and respect for your mentor and let him know how much he's helped you along the way, he needs to understand your decisions.

Also, I highly recommend watching the episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch called "The Four Faces of Sabrina." If you can see how ridiculous Sabrina was for trying to please others in choosing colleges, then perhaps that'll make your communication with your mentor easier. In any case, best of luck! :)

Edited by ThousandsHardships
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2 hours ago, RBspkRuP said:

@ThousandsHardships and @thelionking thank you for your advice, unfortunately he wanted to talk about it and it ended up going really bad. Definitely cried after...feeling really regretful in how things ended and disappointed he wasn't okay with the decision. 

I was lurking reading this thread. That's super disappointing to hear. Hopefully with some time, they will understand. 

Edited by Saiyph
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Seems like there's blame to go around here. 

OP kept leading on the advisor to this point (wants to stay, top choice, yadda, yadda) while the advisor was on sabbatical. Now the advisor needs to recruit a new student to fill a void they didn't think they had. Given how late it is in the season, the advisor probably lost out on the chance to recruit someone who would have fit well.

On the other hand, since OP applied to other programs, the advisor should not have been surprised that OP wanted go elsewhere. The is part of the business and you'd think the professor could be the grown up. 

Hopefully, the advisor gets over it.

 

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I feel you. I had to do the same thing also to a teacher at another university because there was basically no funding offered to me, and because she is going on sabbatical the year I come in. When I told her that I would stay at my current university, she never replied back to my email.

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1 hour ago, DiscoTech said:

Seems like there's blame to go around here. 

OP kept leading on the advisor to this point (wants to stay, top choice, yadda, yadda) while the advisor was on sabbatical. Now the advisor needs to recruit a new student to fill a void they didn't think they had. Given how late it is in the season, the advisor probably lost out on the chance to recruit someone who would have fit well.

On the other hand, since OP applied to other programs, the advisor should not have been surprised that OP wanted go elsewhere. The is part of the business and you'd think the professor could be the grown up. 

Hopefully, the advisor gets over it.

 

I agree, I was a bit wishy washy and unsure of what I wanted to do until recently. I don't necessarily think it would be an issue of recruitment since my school doesn't have people officially choose an advisor till 1 year is up, but I understand the frustration and disappoint that comes from me deciding to go elsewhere. Additionally, the time he will need to put in next year necessary to sway someone to choose him as a supervisor. I guess I just wasn't expecting such a negative response and had thought at the end he would still have my back for the decision. I was encouraged by every other professor to go to this school since it is a significantly higher ranked school and to get the opportunity to work with new people. I definitely do feel at fault since I had said it was one of my top choices until events happened that changed my mind and didn't properly communicate these feelings well enough given the distance. I guess, I just expected a bit more understanding in the end rather than so much frustration and disregard for my decisions and my reasons.  

Edited by RBspkRuP
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I'm sorry to hear that it went badly. Hopefully, after a replacement is found, he will eventually reach a point where believes that everything worked out for the best because the new student is a great fit as well.

Congrats on your offer! It sounds like quite an accomplishment.

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On ‎4‎/‎2‎/‎2017 at 0:33 PM, RBspkRuP said:

@ThousandsHardships and @thelionking thank you for your advice, unfortunately he wanted to talk about it and it ended up going really bad. Definitely cried after...feeling really regretful in how things ended and disappointed he wasn't okay with the decision. 

this was actually me last week; except I told him in his office and cried while I was telling him. mine got over it, but interactions have still been off.

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4 hours ago, aquamarine said:

this was actually me last week; except I told him in his office and cried while I was telling him. mine got over it, but interactions have still been off.

I was able to hold off crying, until the moment it ended and walked away then burst out into tears as I left so he didn't see my reaction. 

Edited by RBspkRuP
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On 4/2/2017 at 5:51 PM, RBspkRuP said:

 

I agree, I was a bit wishy washy and unsure of what I wanted to do until recently. I don't necessarily think it would be an issue of recruitment since my school doesn't have people officially choose an advisor till 1 year is up, but I understand the frustration and disappoint that comes from me deciding to go elsewhere. Additionally, the time he will need to put in next year necessary to sway someone to choose him as a supervisor. I guess I just wasn't expecting such a negative response and had thought at the end he would still have my back for the decision. I was encouraged by every other professor to go to this school since it is a significantly higher ranked school and to get the opportunity to work with new people. I definitely do feel at fault since I had said it was one of my top choices until events happened that changed my mind and didn't properly communicate these feelings well enough given the distance. I guess, I just expected a bit more understanding in the end rather than so much frustration and disregard for my decisions and my reasons.  

I'm sorry this didn't go well for you, but I don't really think it's your fault. You are just finishing undergrad, right? If that's the case I really think it's understandable that you applied to several schools and want to go to the best one. You're not an MA student that received extra money/ teaching opportunities based on the assumption you would be getting your PhD there. Your advisor should be happy for you instead of resentful that you didn't accept their offer. 

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