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I received an official PhD offer from University A on Jan 30 (15 days ago).

In an interview with the faculty from University A, they asked me where A stands among my applications. I honestly replied that A was among the top 3 universities and said that I need to hear from the other two schools before making any decision. I also expressed that it would be hard for me to make the decision before hearing from the other two schools from my top 3 shortlist. The offer from A arrived soon after the interview (obviously).

Today a professor from University A sent me a very short email asking if I had questions or I was close to making decisions.

Is he implying that I should hurry up?

I have not sent them any email since the offer as I had nothing to update. The offer follows the rule of April 15, but the school would offer me a small amount of fellowship (which I don't care) if I accept before late February. The other two schools just interviewed me several days ago and I would expect to hear from them soon.

How should I politely respond?

Thanks!

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    the school would offer me a small amount of fellowship (which I don't care) if I accept before late February - Uh, this is certainly against the spirit of the April 15 Resolution, though I don't know enough about the specifics of the agreement to definitively say it's disallowed. The whole point of the resolution is to not make financial offers of any sort contingent on making a hasty decision, to keep a level playing field across institutions and in the best interest of the students. – Bryan Krause Feb 14 '18 at 17:20
  • @BryanKrause Ironically I just found A on the list of the April 15 Resolution. – John Smith Feb 14 '18 at 17:36
  • I have a hard time coming up with a US university that is not; it's quite a sensible resolution. – Bryan Krause Feb 14 '18 at 17:39
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I don't think the professor is necessarily implying that you should hurry up, they are simply putting pressure on you and hoping that you accept their offer, keeping open a channel for communication if you have questions (like a salesperson asking if you need any help as you are browsing a store), and trying to politely test whether you may have accepted another offer.

If you choose to go elsewhere, they likely want to know as soon as possible so they can extend an offer to another candidate.

I would say it is sufficient to respond with a brief, polite note that you decided before applying to wait for all offers before making a decision, and that you promise to inform them immediately once you have made a decision.

Dr. Professor,

I appreciate the email, I will certainly ask you if any questions come up. My plan when applying was to wait until I hear back from all institutions I interviewed at before making a decision.

I will inform Impatient University immediately once I have made a decision, either way.

Best,

Prospective Student

Your responsibility is to inform them as quickly as is reasonable once you have made a decision, but you shouldn't be pressured to respond more quickly than you are ready.

You mention "the school would offer me a small amount of fellowship (which I don't care) if I accept before late February" - this is certainly against the spirit of the April 15 Resolution, though I don't know enough about the specifics of the agreement to definitively say it's disallowed. The whole point of the resolution is to not make financial offers of any sort contingent on making a hasty decision, to keep a level playing field across institutions and in the best interest of the students. That said, I wouldn't suggest bringing this up at all or making an issue of it, unless it makes you uncomfortable in which case you could certainly consider it in your decision-making process.

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I think that the only thing this professor is doing is "cultivating" you. And I mean that in a nice way. He's just showing that University A remains interested in you and keeping communication open. I would just thank him and maybe take advantage of his offer. The way I would take advantage of the offer is to ask if there were current grad students in program whom he could put me in contact with, so that I could chat with someone on the inside.

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I would say you are right about your guess and he is indeed implying that you should hurry up.

If you still wait for the other responses, something like below may be a proper answer:

Dear Professor Smith,

Thank you for your kind reminder. However, as I have mentioned, I can only inform you about my decision after I have answers from other universities.

I do apologize if this situation gives you inconvenience. Please feel free to proceed further with your other applicants in case you need an answer from me immideately.

Best, John.

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