I was waitlisted by my top choice (got into 2nd choice, though), and somehow I received an interview for an external PhD fellowship (something like NSF, which is not linked to the program or school that I applied to). The results of the fellowship will be out before April. So my question is, should I inform the admission committee about this, and would winning the fellowship help me get off the waitlist? Does anyone have a similar experience?

  • 3
    Maybe wait til you've got an offer of the fellowship in hand before you try to use it as leverage... Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 19:37

2 Answers 2


Yes, it's possible that an external fellowship can help you get admitted. I got an NSF fellowship while I was applying, and one school mentioned this to me in their acceptance letter (in fact, that's how I found out I got the NSF! that school found out before I did). I don't if I was on the waitlist before this, but it seemed clear that affected their decision.

However, it really depends on the department and the situation: are you on the waitlist because they don't want to admit more than X students, or they because can't fund more than X students? That said, I agree with astronat's comment, and wait to find out if you get the fellowship or not, assuming you don't have to reply to your 2nd choice before that. Then you could check in with your top choice, and mention this fellowship.

  • Thanks for the comments:) I have also heard that people were moved from the waitlist after receiving fellowships, some finger crossed Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 2:33

Yes, you should inform the committee, but it is unlikely to have an immediate effect. In particular, if others, not on the waitlist, have been given offers, none of those will be withdrawn for this reason. But it is likely that not all offers will be accepted and so it might put you in a better position on the waitlist and increase the likelihood of an offer in the next round.

I think most people would see withdrawing an offer for person A because of some change in person B's situation would be unethical.

So, you remain on the waitlist most likely, but in a better position. That is a positive with no downside.

  • However, the chair of admission told me that the waitlist is unranked, so I am not sure if winning a fellowship will help put me in a better position, since there is actually not a "position" for we on the waitlist Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 2:34
  • Eventually they have to make decisions, of course.
    – Buffy
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 11:34

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