I was recently accepted into a graduate school in my field, but I haven't heard from any of the other PhD programs I applied to (and am assuming that they're all rejections/waitlists if I haven't been contacted by now. In e-mails with a potential advisor at the school I was accepted to, he asked which other schools I was admitted to since graduate schools of a certain tier generally accept the same group of students. How do I tell her that I haven't been accepted to any other groups (only MS programs) and do I tell her this at all? I don't want her to feel like she was the only person to make a mistake by accepting me.

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    Hard to tell the reason. Have you already formally accepted the admissions offer, or as far as your potential advisor knows could you still sitting on the fence about where to go? If they think you still have a choice to make, they may simply be trying to gauge their level of involvement: if they learn you've been accepted to similar or better programs, they may view their odds of actually working with you low, whereas if you haven't then they may be willing to get dedicated to things more quickly. Advising a student is a pretty big commitment, usually. Commented Feb 19, 2016 at 23:47
  • I do not see why you would need to answer. Students have privacy rights (depending on jurisdiction). Most likely the potential advisor wishes to forecast the likelihood you will enroll. Another possibility is that the potential advisor is seeking information to try and convince you to enroll. In either case, you have no obligation to help. Always remember that faculty need PhD students. Commented Feb 20, 2016 at 7:16

1 Answer 1


You haven't been not accepted, you haven't heard. There's a difference.

"I'm still waiting to hear back from a couple other places." Should be a sufficient answer. If you want, a light quip about her university apparently being really on the ball.

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    On the other hand, 90% of the places I've applied to in Mathematics over the last 5 years have yet to send me either a rejection or an acceptance notice. I'd still generally think that just saying "I'm waiting to hear back from some places" is a good idea, even when you actually aren't. You can give them the impression that they're your top choice without implying they are your only choice. Commented Feb 19, 2016 at 23:51
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    @zibadawatimmy Whether or not it will be accurate in the future, it's accurate now, and dodges the idea that your choices are this or nothing.
    – Fomite
    Commented Feb 19, 2016 at 23:52
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    Yes, that's what I meant after my first sentence. The first was more of a humorous (but entirely truthful) jibe, which ultimately I think most people these days are quite familiar with (having been rejected by utter silence many times themselves). Commented Feb 19, 2016 at 23:56
  • Silence does not necessarily mean rejection. I was once contacted by a company who wanted to know why I hadn't responded to their offer. It turned out they had forgotten to tell me I got the job. ;-) Commented Feb 20, 2016 at 11:34

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