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TLDR: Got a PhD offer at top choice, all details checked out, and I want to accept now (much earlier than the April 15th deadline).

A colleague (at the professor level) I mentioned this to said I should wait as it could look 'too earnest' accepting roughly 10 days after notification.

Is there any truth to this claim? I.e. does it 'look bad' (i.e. desperate) if I accept now? I'm just genuinely excited and am ready to lock it in.

Additional details (from comments):

  • This offer is a 'hard' offer such that it is from the department, many cc'd people, and is in writing

  • I have other 'hard' offers from other universities and have yet to hear back from a few more

Other relevant questions:

Update:

Thank you all SO much for your input. I went ahead and accepted the offer and got feedback saying they appreciated the rapid response and the PI was eager to arrange a talk for next steps. While this is likely the standard positive response, I have marked Buffy's answer as correct. The first two sentences made the most sense: 'Actually, it is simple courtesy to accept as soon as you know you will do so. This helps the institution deal with its obligations to you and others.' I then let the other universities know immediately after and I hope this helps their search process.

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    I don't understand how 'looking too earnest' would be a bad thing. Can you elaborate on that (although I agree that you shouldn't accept until you are ready to do so) – Strawberry Feb 12 at 14:44
  • Hi Strawberry, I think as others have pointed out, the idea behind 'waiting' would be to see if they will increase the stipend or I can 'pit' different universities against each other to increase stipend (this is NOT what I want to do - just echoing sentiments below). – Reputable Misnomer Feb 12 at 14:56
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    There is such a thing as accepting "too early": if you accept the offer before it's made. – Mark Feb 12 at 23:13
  • There may be benefits to accepting an offer "too early." This includes non-work opportunities such as socials earlier-in that will help you build rapport before start date, and also helping them to supply you more quickly with necessary equipment, etc. before you begin. I realize this is not a complete answer. – Mikey Feb 14 at 19:35
  • No. It can be an offer you can't refuse. :) – Jay Feb 15 at 9:59
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Actually, it is simple courtesy to accept as soon as you know you will do so. This helps the institution deal with its obligations to you and others. It isn't a game you play for "advantage". You hope to develop a long term relationship with this institution. Treat them with respect and expect them to reciprocate.

Don't accept before you are ready, such as when other offers might come in, but don't delay for any perceived "strategic" reason.

Similarly, once you have accepted the offer, extend the other universities the courtesy of letting them know you will not be accepting theirs.

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    My experience is that in reality if you leave it to the last minute (and lots do) there will be a lot of "Well, if she actually arrives then she can do this, but we can't be sure, so let's not give her that" and when you start there will be lots of running round and loose-end-ness going on. An early acceptance means you'll have a nice package waiting for you that everyone concerned has had time to mull over, if they're competent. Make sure you're sure though! – Dannie Feb 13 at 13:00
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I would take your colleagues advice - but not for the reason he cited.

Waiting a few days allows the excitement to die down and stops you from making rash decisions. Perhaps there is some catch in the agreement that you glazed over because you were too interested in the good parts.

You've also mentioned that other offers are coming in - waiting allows you to consider all of them properly. There might be a gem among them that you notice too late (if at all). It would be unfortunate to accept this offer moments before a better one arrives in the mail.

So I recommend waiting at least a couple of days just to cool down and consider your future carefully. If you have already done this, then I see no reason not to go ahead. As other answers have said, you want to build a positive relationship with these people and being prompt is a good way to start.

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    This is good advice. At the minimum, one should wait until having sobered up from celebrating the offer before accepting! – Ti Strga Feb 12 at 21:51
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I doubt they will care much either way if you accept early or at the last minute. Appearing eager is not a bad thing. You should be excited to start a PhD.

It is courteous and prudent not to delay if your decision has really already been made. It means they and you can move forward with the process of registering as a student. It also means they can say no to waitlisted candidates.

However, if your decision is not certain yet, then don’t make it earlier than necessary. For example, you haven’t seen all the other options yet. And you haven’t visited. These could change your mind. So I would wait until you have a clearer picture.

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A few questions to consider:

  • Do you have a binding contract signed off by them you just need to sign and send back? Or any other legally binding offer?
    Until you have that you need to be in a hurry (to get it, not to sign)

Following your edit: you did not mention the country so I am not sure what "hard" means. They can write the nicest letter with "we want you!" and cc: the whole world, but if in your jurisdiction this is not binding you should be careful. It is not like you are buying a TV - this is a PhD program you are very eager to get into.
For instance in France you get an offer letter which is legally binding.

  • Is there any advantage of waiting? Negotiations? A better offer from somewhere else you would be waiting for?
    If the answer is "no" you do not gain anything at waiting and your mind will be at peace once all the paperwork is over.

Following your edit: so it looks like there are other events you are waiting for? (the replies from other schools)

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There is no logical reason to delay your answer once you are certain of the deicsion you have taken.

You are not in a position to negotiate, and the contract details for a PhD position (in the majority of cases, but you can correct me if it's different for you) are locked. You are not earning any "reputation point" or "coolness points" by waiting for the sake of waiting. Accepting as soon as you made up your mind - and I mean you are sure about it - is the correct, respectful, and polite thing to do so that the university has the time to start the paperwork and eventually notify other candidates that the position has been taken. Those candidates in turn can make up their minds on the offers they got. Essentially, there is quite a bit of people waiting on your answer so unless there are reasons to delay I would not do it.

IF you have a reason to wanting to take some time, be it to let your emotions cool down and take a clear-headed decision or because you want to wait for other offers to come in and compare, then by all means do so. It is in your full rights. Otherwise, if you know you will want to take that place no matter what, lock it as soon as possible.

Also remember, something many people underestimate is that once you sign a contract you have a job. You are employed with all the benefits that come with it. If the university burns down tomorrow and you have not signed a contract, you will lose it. I am sorry to say, but from the information you provided I don't see the reason in your colleague's advice.

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    "You are employed with all the benefits that come with it." - Not in the UK you aren't. (I don't know about other countries). – Martin Bonner Feb 14 at 17:16
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I think your advisor has the right instincts here. Any time you are in this sort of position (schools, job search, etc.) it makes more sense to wait. It can only be to your benefit. Also, school A may decide to up their offer, give you a visit, etc.

It's not so much that anything bad will come of your accepting early. It won't make you look bad or too eager. But you are just not using the situation to max advantage.

P.s. I think it's a good question. Should not be closed.

  • As a follow-up to this - do you have any recommendations as to whether I should communicate to the PI I am in contact with the offering university? E.g. is it worthwhile for me to communicate with that Prof that I intend to accept? My key worry is that I can open up my spots at other universities/university-associated-fellowships (as I've read and understood this selection process can be quite resource-intensive). – Reputable Misnomer Feb 11 at 19:43
  • Continue to communicate to this guy and deepen the relationship but don't make a commitment. Don't worry about the slots at other schools. They are running a bulk process and have people who decline/accept/don't show up out of the pool all the time. They will take care of themselves (e.g. letting in a few weaker candidates late if they need to). Be respectful but at the same time it is not your responsibility to optimize for them. Schools ding people all the time and get dinged all the time. Believe me they have a lot less at risk (from portfolio impact) than you do in the single commit. – guest Feb 11 at 20:03
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    This is a poor answer - this is an offer for admission for grad school, not a job offer. Trying to stretch out for a better negotiation position is going to make you look bad, not good. I also find it a bit offensive to think of the admissions process for PhDs as a "bulk process": there might be some bulk filtering early on in the process, but at the time of accepting students it is in my experience quite personal and individualized. At a top school, it's less about "letting in a few weaker candidates" and more about "extending offers to other well-qualified options." – Bryan Krause Feb 11 at 20:48
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    Disagree. Committees routinely get many decisions towards the end. Perhaps even the bulk of them. There are very few times you have this level of control, freedom. Take advantage. Oh...and from personal perspective 2 of 6 of my accepts sent fellowships (few extra thousand bucks but makes a big difference when you are so poor) AFTER the initial accept letter and before decision time. [And you don't need to let them know why you are waiting.] – guest Feb 11 at 20:51
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    Editing especially the latest comment into the answer would improve it. – Tommi Brander Feb 12 at 11:45
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Is there any truth to this claim? I.e. does it 'look bad' (i.e. desperate) if I accept now?

As others indicate, some people/organizations may "raise an eyebrow" at an immediate acceptance, but most wouldn't. Problem is, you don't know which is which.

What I suggest you do is: Write them something which is almost an acceptance, but not quite. For example:

Dear Mr. [Secretary / Investigator / Administrator's name],

I was very pleased to receive your offer, and will in all likelihood accept it.

In the mean time, I would like to know whether [something trivial here]. Also, once I accept, what exactly [some procedural-technical question here, timelines etc]?

Respectfully, Reputable Misnomer

So, you're asking about things that happen after your acceptance, as though you're about to to make those arrangements. But you still have not said the words "I accept". When you actually do accept, it will be after a (hopefully very short) while when you get an answer. And regardless of whether the answer is satisfying or not, I don't think anyone would think it strange that you accept then, because it's not an immediate acceptance.

Also, this does "tie" them to you in the sense that you're telling them to expect an acceptance, so unless they're completely psycopathic they would not withdraw the offer without saying "please make a final decision immediately".

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