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I received an offer from a top US engineering Ph.D. Program. Let's say this is Program A. I also have another offer program B. Currently, I am waiting on program C's decisions. The potential advisor from C is very positive he will have full funding + offer for me soon. All A, B, and C are my TOP choices and TOP engineering Ph.D. programs in the U.S.

My preference is as follows with a 'confidence value of my preference' estimated in brackets. A_offered (0.90) > C_waiting (0.87) > B_offered (0.83)

My dilemma is that the advisor from A emailed me that they want to know my decision a couple of weeks before the 04/15 deadline. An official offer letter was attached to that email.

Though I am leaning toward program A, I am still looking into program B and waiting on program C's offer.

Would it be okay to respectfully ask the advisor from A that I will need more time to make my decision?

And, if I do ask him for more time, is there a possibility that he will rescind my official offer?

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    This is not the same question, but the info is relevant: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/143505/…
    – Dawn
    Mar 11 at 19:06
  • Do they say why they would like an early response? Could 3/15 just be a typo of 4/15?
    – Dawn
    Mar 11 at 19:52
  • @Dawn I don't believe so. The earlier date is stipulated as the same on both the mail and the offer letter.
    – KTJ
    Mar 11 at 19:57

2 Answers 2

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Yes, you can absolutely say you need more time. The April 15 deadline is the only real deadline here. It may be that it would be convenient for the faculty member to have you decide earlier, but they should not be pressuring you strongly for an earlier decision. It is okay for them to ask, but not to push.

You can say something like - you are waiting to hear the details of one more likely offer and would like to weigh it fully. You can also offer to let the faculty member know as soon as possible (can keep this vague) after you receive the details of the final outstanding offer.

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  • thank you for your honest answer. I am just worried A) if I ask for an extension that they might rescind my official offer. Even if they do say "Please note that acceptance of this offer is non-binding until 04/15" and B) If I do ask for an extension, should I mention I do have other offers/waiting on them? Or Should I just be vague and just say "I would appreciate some more time." Thus, its the brutally honest vs. a-bit honest deliemna.
    – KTJ
    Mar 11 at 19:20
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    I don't see anything wrong with saying you are waiting on another offer that you would like to consider fully. Rescinding the offer would be totally illogical. It is possible that it happens, but not the sort of thing that a reputable program would do -- it would be very strong signal that you were dealing with an unethical advisor. For more information about non-binding acceptances, see the link I posted above as a comment.
    – Dawn
    Mar 11 at 19:48
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    My read of the situation is that if you are going to definitely reject them, they want to know as soon as possible. It seems like soft encouragement for an early reply, not a demand.
    – Dawn
    Mar 12 at 2:39
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Deadlines are deadlines, sometimes they can be bent, but I would not expect a significant extension. After all, the advisor from A needs to submit their decision as well, starting your work together by missing deadlines is surely not the most professional thing ever.

The ball is in your court: you have all the information from that advisor and it is clear you may wait until the start of April to make that decision. They have nothing to gain from the extension: either you apply to A anyway (why would you need an extension then?) or you decide to go with C (why spend time and resources and go out of your way for them to specifically bail on you?). It just makes no sense!

From your description, the advisor has handled the communication so far very professionally. You should live up to that standard, too. There are times when you have to make decision based on incomplete information and cannot guarantee that the course of action is the best possible one.

What you could do is to inform the advisor at C that you have a hard offer which imposes a certain deadline on you. Do not mention where you got this offer from nor the deadline itself: instead, state a deadline of your own (say, March, 25th). This passes the ball on and if the advisor at C drops it, well, not much you could do. If they really want you in their lab, they should make a counter-offer with some way to guarantee you it would work out. "We will have funding sometime soon, promise" is not the way to do any business together, much less long-term commitments. Maybe "I have talked to all the people responsible for the funding and they have promised me it will be allocated" is enough, but "I am sure I will manage to get it" is not.

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    Disagree. This is a misread of the situation as 4/15 is the real deadline. Any other date is a personal preference by A.
    – Dawn
    Mar 11 at 19:00
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    Note here that the 4/15 deadline/policy is specific to the US. People who are at non-US universities don't have the same set of policies to deal with and individual advisors have more power to make deadlines.
    – Dawn
    Mar 11 at 19:53
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    @KTJ The reply by 03/15 is a bit unreasonable demand, IMHO - I've interpreted "a couple of weeks before the 04/15 deadline" more literally. That is, you are technically free to wait until 4/15, but it is better if you could notify them a bit in advance (say, before 4/8) so to accommodate them as well. To that end, a single extra week probably won't change as much, which is what I meant by "not a significant extension". A month, however, is quite significant, and I would push back on that.
    – Lodinn
    Mar 11 at 21:39
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    Considering that (in the U.S.) quite a few "second round offers" go out just on April 15, due to "first round offers" being declined at the last minute, etc., the questioner here may not have definitive info about other possible offers until essentially April 15. So, to "compromise" at deciding a week earlier, etc., would (possibly) be a bad compromise, given the mechanics. Grad admissions people/advisors/etc obviously would prefer to have their own strategizing about this simplified, but the stakes are much higher for students, and my opinion is that we should "just deal with" complications. Mar 11 at 22:52
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    The "we" is faculty and admissions committees and university administrations dealing with grad students. These decisions are a very big thing for grad students, and they shouldn't be bullied or "guilted" into making decisions before the standard date in the U.S., just for the minor convenience of faculty and admissions committees. Mar 12 at 2:50

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