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I was accepted to a fantastic [U.S.] program last year I was surprised to get an offer from but because they didn't offer me any funding and my life was still in a whirlwind due to the pandemic, I deferred. I reached out about a month ago reiterating my happiness in being accepted and then I asked whether I could be reconsidered for funding. This is the part where I messed up. I said that I was looking forward to working with their faculty, which they took as planning to enroll. They responded by saying that they were happy to hear that I was enrolling for the fall, and they also cc'd one of my POI. When they responded, I realized that I hadn't chosen my words well.

The program itself is exactly what I am looking for in an MA program, but I really need funding to make it work. If had received any last year, I would have probably figured out how to move to that city and started the program on a part-time basis.

The bigger issue, if you haven't guessed it, is that I applied to a few other programs this cycle with the hopes of receiving funding. My question is, I haven't signed or submitted anything, I have only sent that email saying that I was interested in being considered for more funding. I'm guessing I should just let things be, and I honestly don't know if I will be accepted to any of those other programs.

Now I'm really worried that I've inadvertently committed myself and will be in a tricky situation if I do get a funded offer. Do grad programs take such statements to heart, or do they understand that grad applicants tend to change their minds about a million times in the process? I also would hope that graduate programs would be understanding of the fact that students want to avoid creating huge debt for themselves?

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    So you were able to "defer" the offer last year without making any commitment? Are you sure? "Deferring" an offer normally means accepting it with a negotiated start date, not just leaving the offer on the table for a year....which could explain why the faculty thinks that you are planning to enroll.
    – cag51
    Feb 14, 2023 at 18:27

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I really need funding to make it work

Be direct and honest about this. If you can only attend the program if funding is available, there's no need to be cagey about it. Either there is funding available for you and the program is a possible option (pending your other applications), or there isn't funding available and it isn't an option for you.

Don't just let it sit. You should respond, take responsibility for the confusion that you were accepting admission (not necessarily because it's your fault, it's just the polite thing to do), and clarify that while you are excited and happy to be accepted, you are asking about funding opportunities because without funding you will be unable to attend.

Now, generally US masters students are not funded. There are exceptions, and if you require it then it only makes sense for you to pursue those occasional exceptions, but usually available funding through TAships and RAships are held for PhD students. Training PhD students is seen as somewhat of a public good, as it's part of training the next generation of academic researchers. Training masters students, on the other hand, is seen more as part of the individual education for those students to take jobs with higher salaries outside of academia. Therefore, it's expected that masters students will pay their own way as an investment in future earnings.

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This is a genuine mistake, so send an email as soon as possible to explain the misunderstanding. Admission committees are fully aware that MA programs cost a lot of money and that many people couldn't enroll without funding.

As soon as you are clearing the misunderstanding quickly enough so that it is not a burden for the admission committee, there should be no problem.

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  • Thank you for your response!
    – Shirley
    Feb 14, 2023 at 16:28

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