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I applied to graduate schools this year, and at the tail end of February, my first pick school sent me an email that to me, sounded like they had filled all the available TA positions. So naturally I chose my second pick school (that did offer me a TAship).

Today (April 16th), I receive an email from my first choice school saying they would like to offer me a TAship (apparently somebody declined their offer).

The graduate adviser at my second choice school had told me before that sometime she made offers to candidates in the summer, so I am thinking if I were to contact her and ask to be released from my agreement, she might be OK with that. (I realize there are formal rules that apply)

Would it be such a bad thing to ask my second choice school to release me (if they say no it will be somewhat awkward for me and if I just walk out on them, I am not sure what they can do).

TIA, GB

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    Regarding if I just walk out on them, I am not sure what they can do - for schools in the U.S. that support the April 15 resolution (most schools in the U.S.), "an offer by an institution after April 15 is conditional on presentation by the student of the written release from any previously accepted offer." If your 2nd choice doesn't want to release you, they can tell your 1st choice, who are then within their rights to rescind the offer. – ff524 Apr 17 '14 at 7:06
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    It would be particularly uncool of your first choice school to have sent you an offer on 4/16 if they are participants in the 4/15 Resolution without telling you so, btw. – Bill Barth Apr 17 '14 at 16:15
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    @BillBarth participants in the 4/15 resolution (i.e. most US grad schools) routinely make a an offer or two after 4/15 - that's when they know how many of their first choice students have declined. – ff524 Apr 18 '14 at 6:01
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    @ff524, sure, of course, but they should tell candidates that they are signatories to the 4/15 resolution when they do! – Bill Barth Apr 18 '14 at 11:51
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    I've also never heard of any university actually doing that. — ...because if school A refuses a request from school B, inevitably school B (and possibly schools C, D, and E) will refuse future requests from school A. – JeffE May 20 '14 at 1:02
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You have to know what you want to do. If you want to go to your 1st choice school, perhaps you can come to an agreement to have the 2nd professor as your copromotor? Or didn't you pin down your supervisor and your topic yet. In that case, just go for the first school definately.

Take a look at your contract or contact the administration. They will be able to help you with the more technical details of resigning.

But do what you feel you want to spend the next 4 years doing!

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    Take a look at your contract — "Contract"? What "contract"? – JeffE May 20 '14 at 1:03
  • In that case, if you are like a "civil servant" of the government, you indeed do not have a contract. But check the reglementation for the phd program and the statutes of the employment position, they will serve as "contract" : ) – dorien May 20 '14 at 8:07
  • At least in the US, graduate students are not employees of the university they attend and therefore do not have an employment contract. (On the other hand, many US graduate students hold assistantships, and at some US universities, those assistantships constitute formal employment.) – JeffE May 20 '14 at 15:35
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Something to consider is that certain academic disciplines are quite small. Pulling out after the April 15 deadline may burn bridges, which might impact future collaborations with individuals at your 2nd choice school. Or, it's possible you could still collaborate with individuals from your 1st choice school while attending your 2nd choice school, and resigning may not be necessary. It's something to keep in mind, in order to be as professional as possible while navigating your potential resignation.

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