What To Do Once You Have a Grad School Offer
Congratulations on receiving a graduate school offer! Now that your hard work has paid off, there's only one thing left for you to do – respond "yes" or "no". Well, there's actually a little more to it than that. The timing and manner in which you accept or reject a grad school offer can have implications on how people perceive and treat you. Remember, institutions are made up of people with pride, feelings, and (importantly) memories. A good rule of thumb is to wait a few days before responding to an offer to allow yourself some time to think.
If Your Offer Is Funded, You Have Until April 15 to Decide
The Council of Graduate Schools has published a set of guidelines since the 1960s governing the acceptance of funded graduate admissions offers. It states that any grad school applicant receiving an offer with financial support in the form of scholarships, fellowships, or assistantships, has until April 15 to evaluate his or her choices. Most universities adhere to these guidelines, so, if you received funding, don't cave into pressure to make a rushed decision.
How to (Enthusiastically) Accept an Offer
You've done it. You're in. What should you do next? Start by accepting your offer enthusiastically. You'll be spending the next years in a small community and it pays dividends to make an impression. It's not so important whether you accept your offer by phone or email, but it is important that you convey your excitement about starting the program. If you've been in touch with more than one professor, it's a great idea to contact them all and thank them for their support.
How to (Gracefully) Reject an Offer
Sometimes, the tables turn. Perhaps you've received two offers and need to turn one down. While it's tempting to reject a school with a one sentence email, there's something to be said about maintaining relationships. Academia is a small world and you never know when your gaffe might come back to haunt you. In the same way that you'd like to be let down gently when rejected, schools do too. So email or call them, thank them for their confidence in you, and explain that you've decided to attend another program and explain the reasons.
How to Deal With Deadlines If You Need More Time
You may run into a thorny situation where you receive an offer from "School A" that expires before you hear back from "School B". What in the dickens are you supposed to do then? If this happens, you can remind the schools of the CGS April 15 deadline if your offer is funded. If it isn't, you should speak to "School B" and inform them of the expiring offer. Reiterate your interest in their program and ask whether they've finalized their admission decisions. If they haven't, contact "School A" and request an extension. Explain that you haven't heard back from all schools and want to make a fully informed decision about your grad school offer.