Thursday, March 19, 2009

In A Bit of a Pickle

The school that has accepted me to their program wants me to come out for a visit, which is great. 

BUT, the only timeframe that they're giving me that will work within the schedule for my job is in mid-April. The deadline for official acceptances nationwide in psychology PhD programs is 4/15. I will be visiting in the days preceding that deadline. 

You will recall that I am still waiting to hear from one last school - my Holy Grail, if you will. 

This means that I can book travel for those dates, but if I get accepted to Holy Grail school my travel will be non-refundable, and this is a $$$$ trip. 

My preference would be to wait to book the flights until after I hear from Holy Grail school, but how do I tell the school that accepted me that I'm doing so? CAN I tell them that?

I may not hear from Holy Grail school for another week or two. And I probably won't get accepted anyway. 

One thing I do know (kinda like buying snow boots and then the next day getting accepted to a school where I won't really need them), is that if I book the trip I WILL get accepted to Holy Grail school and it will cost me another like $500. 

I'm not sure how to handle this situation. Any advice out there?


Professor in Training said...

My bias would be that you visit Accepted School regardless of whether you are accepted at Holy Grail School or not. You might find that you loooooove the place and the people ... or that you hate it with a passion. Better to go and find out than wondering about the "what ifs" later.

x-ine said...

I wouldn't take any chances - just to be on the safe side. Sure, you risk being set back money-wise, but it's probably for the best to not "put all your eggs in one basket" (believe me, I know all about this).

Good luck!

Odyssey said...

PiT is absolutely right. Go visit - it's the only way you have of knowing whether or not it's really the right (or wrong) place for you.

JLK said...

Thanks, guys, but the problem is the timeframe.

Because of the 4/15 deadline for all programs, visiting the school in the few days preceding will essentially obligate me to accept an offer. If Holy Grail school comes through, I will have to accept an offer from them before that deadline, and then the trip out there will be a waste.

In other words, the timing of the visit will not give me any time to weigh options and make a decision.

Ambivalent Academic said...

One thing I do know (kinda like buying snow boots and then the next day getting accepted to a school where I won't really need them), is that if I book the trip I WILL get accepted to Holy Grail school and it will cost me another like $500.


Book the visit.

Get offer from Holy Grail.

Cancel trip to other school.

Get flight voucher that is good for the next 12 months.

Send self on vacation to celebrate acceptance to Holy Grail.

Dilemma solved.

JLK said...

@AA - LOL! That's awesome.

Comrade Physioprof said...

I'm not clear on what purpose there is to visiting the school you've been admitted to. If you don't get into Holy Grail school, then you are going to attend the school you've already been accepted by. And if you get accepted by Holy Grail school, you will attend there.

Given that--by your own assertions--there are no further decisions for you to make, what purpose could it serve to visit?

JLK said...

@CPP - my sentiments exactly. But they're asking me to come out and visit. I read through the letter again like an hour ago, and it turns out that the "acceptance" is not so clear. I just sent an email to the director to clarify whether I have actually been accepted, or if I am still being considered. No response yet. I hate it when people are vague. More details to follow when I hear back.

Silly me, I thought the stress was over.

human said...

Southwest tends to be really flexible about changes in travel plans. Only relevant if you live in the US and they fly to where you are going, but.

Mrs. CH said...

I agree with CPP - if you don't have to travel out there to be accepted, then try to get out of it.

Otherwise, book the trip and swallow the costs if you end up getting accepted to Holy Grail. There's nothing worse, like x-ine said, than putting all your eggs in one basket!

Good luck!

physicienne said...

hmm - i'm used to universities at least reimbursing you for some chunk of travel expenses for things like this. they often have a deal for fully refundable tix for a little more than what we'd pay for non-refundable ones, so from a money + paperwork standpoint they will usually agree to buy a ticket that they were going to reimburse anyway. have you asked? particularly if you're expected to go, or if they recognize that they'd do well to have such a rockstar on their student list. if they say no, ask them if they'd go for half of the airfare?

this was something like my grad school situation, and i didn't wind up visiting because of the cost and time. cpp's right in that there might not be much you can do about it if you're not required to visit and if it's the only one you're accepted to, but - 1. if it's great you'll look forward to it that much more and you've oriented yourself, 2. if you're 'meh' about it now you might learn something awesome or at least give yourself a chance to get pumped up about it, and 3. if it remains 'meh', then you're still mentally prepared. my department has serious issues (i'm #3, more or less), and i would've like to have known.

you also seem to have amazing use of face time with the heavyweights, so i'm sure you'd pull off some networking to boot.

lastly, i swear - deadlines for all programs are april 15. requiring an answer before this is a no-no. sure committees like to hear about decisions as early as possible, but if there's a legitimate choice you're struggling with let them know the odds that you'll accept, perhaps, but don't feel guilty about taking more time (maybe if you were waitlisted at school #1?). in my field, at least, being honest (ie about going somewhere else if possible) is appreciated as long as you're not inconsiderate. have you asked holy grail school where you stand?

Isabel said...

Are you saying you would accept an offer without visiting first, even though it only costs 500? What if you really hate them/the place -
why can't you just keep looking in that case?

JLK said...

@Isabel - I'm not entirely sure what you're asking. If this school that's asking me to visit is the only one that accepts me, then yes, the plan is to go there. I don't want to lose another year of my education by being picky. If Holy Grail program (#3 on my list) accepts me, I will go there - no questions asked. It would cost me $500 in travel if I visited the school that wants me to visit and then I got accepted to Holy Grail school because I would go there instead.

But to your overall question - I chose the worst possible year to apply to grad school. So yes, I will accept an offer without visiting first if it's the only offer I get.

Isabel said...

Well I visited one school that was little more than a back-up plan if I didn't get in to my first choice. It turned out to be a great experience, for many reaons, and my potential advisor there has turned out to be an important contact and probable future collaborator. And he was understanding about me taking the other offer since it was a much better offer, even though we clicked. All I'm saying is everything isn't a waste just because you don't get an immediate payoff...Yes, it's a bad year, but I think next year will be better Everybody is panicked right now. Grad school is 5+ years and you will make a lot of life-long contacts there. Well, good Luck!

Hermitage said...

Hmm, I tend to say go visit just in case. I faced a similar dilemma where I got into a Yes We Rock Uber U. that I was not so keen on and a Yes We Rock And You Can Suck It Uber U. that I was SO SURE I would go to, no questions asked. Then I found a badass PI in a badass area of research at the former Uni and neither at my Dream School. So unless you already know tons about the profs/research program/etc at both programs, I say go visit.

JLK said...

@Physicienne - Thanks for the great comments. They're offering reimbursement for the flight, but it will cover less than half of the total cost. I haven't asked Holy Grail school where I stand because that tends to be pretty frowned upon. I know they have my application because they personally confirmed my address change over a month ago. So I'm just trying to be patient and not get my hopes up. It turns out that they're pretty slow with admissions decisions every year, so my initial belief that no news is good news no longer stands.

Isis the Scientist said...

PP is a wise man, little chicken.

Anonymous said...

I think most likely if you have not receievd a decision by now for a US based graduate school the answer is a rejection. Check out sites such as and see when the normal acceptance time is. This can give you a clue if anyone has ever been accepted at this time of the year from the institution.
Also sadly graduate school can really determine the rest of your life especially if you want a job in academia. If you think you can approve your application by next year and really want to go to Holy Grail U. I would suggest you wait. Cheers.

JLK said...

@Anonymous - I'm sure you're probably right about that, but I can still hope. I have checked gradcafe compulsively for the last 2 weeks. There are only 2 results posted for my department (none for my program) for this year - one was an interview in January, and one was a waitlist from 3/17 that said they should hear by April 1. There are not many results for this school at all.

In terms of it mattering for a job, I think I could probably be happy at an R2 or even a LAC as long as I still got to do research. But the option of working at an R1 eventually is something I would like to have. I guess I just have to wait and see what happens.

Psych Post Doc said...

You should go visit no matter what (and at least they'll reimburse you for some of it). What if you hate it there? You're better off spending the year working as an RA and applying again next year than going to a school that doesn't fit.

I think it's fine for you to contact the one school you haven't heard from yet. Mention you have 1 offer, 1 wait list and you're still very interested in their program. They understand that once the decisions start rolling in that it would be helpful to know if you're out of contention for their program. Although most programs have contacted their first choices, I know of many, many people who were accepted off the waitlists much later than this. Some programs are not as open about their waitlists and will leave you in limbo just waiting to hear from them until 4/15.

Also, 4/15 is the deadline, you do not have to make any decision before then. So the fact that you'd be visiting the school you're accepted to just prior to that means nothing. If you get into Holy Grail you do not have to tell them whether you will go until the 15th and not a moment sooner. They know that this is the case and they also know that sometimes it really does come down to 5pm on 4/15.

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