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I have a PhD few admission offers from some universities. My first choice school didn't make its decision yet, or maybe didn't post it online yet.

Is it OK to send an email asking about application status and explaining that I have other standing offers which I have to make decisions about quickly?

Would this have any negative impact on my application?

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  • IMO, if you simply ask, or, enquire about a PhD position then this should go against you. If, however, you start stating the reasons to the mistakes and/or "begging" this would be seen as negative. Since this is not your motives then I say yes, ask them – Phorce Mar 18 '15 at 8:35
  • Some irresponsible programs take the application fee but never tell the applicant they were not accepted. – Anonymous Physicist Mar 21 '15 at 23:51
  • @AnonymousPhysicist - do you have evidence for this?I know many jobs won't respond to applicants, but universities charge an application fee so I think you at least get a postcard or e-mail. – RoboKaren Mar 22 '15 at 0:03
  • @RoboKaren experience of acquaintances. – Anonymous Physicist Mar 22 '15 at 0:08
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Is it OK to send an email asking about application status and explaining that I have other standing offers which I have to make decisions about quickly?

Yes, it is more than okay. If you think you might prefer school X over your current list of accepted schools, definitely let them know. At worst they will be indifferent to this information. At best, they will be very grateful to know this and be given the opportunity to enroll you. They may for instance fly you in on short notice to interview / recruit you. In no case (well, no reasonable case...) will they respond negatively.

Would this have any negative impact on my application?

As mentioned above: absolutely not. Rather it could have a positive impact, including in some cases resulting in better funding for you.

Added: The above is general advice without factoring in the thought that school X may be better than the schools to which you've already been accepted. The advice is still valid, but the response from a top school may be less dramatic: top programs tend to make their admissions decisions more independently and tend to have good funding anyway. (Nevertheless they would be happy to know that you are still interested in them before you make your decision.) A (fairly long) while back an old friendly acquaintance of mine was visiting the Harvard math department as a prospective student after already having been admitted to MIT (which is not a measurably worse department, I should mention). He expressed to me the hope that MIT's interest would engender a "bidding war" between the two schools. This did not happen and in fact the student did not stay in any graduate program for very long.

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  • Even if school X is better than the others, some of the others probably have researchers that are at least competitive at some level. It would be advisable in this situation to mention something like "I'd like to work with professor so-and-so but University Y also has this professor I'd like to work with." Typically if you are competitive as a candidate at X, it's likely that at Y they will be happy to extend favorable funding offers and promises of working with the bigshots there. – Chan-Ho Suh Mar 22 '15 at 0:56
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Yes, it is okay to ask about your application status. If you tell them you got into a good program, that might be considered a sign you are good applicant.

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