Grad School Decision: Leveraging Offers?

In summary: He stated that he already found out the COL is comparable at both universities. He stated that he already found out the COL is comparable at both universities.
  • #1
stringy
90
1
Hello everybody,

I applied to eight graduate schools in mathematics and so far I have received two acceptances. Out of those eight, there are really only four that I'm truly interested in, with the other four being safety schools. Of the two acceptances that I've received so far, one of them is from one of my top four choices.

The problem is, the stipend from that top choice is a little on the low side even though they seem quite enthusiastic about my application. The other university is offering me almost $3000 more per year. Both financial packages include the stipend, full tuition remission, and a health insurance plan. I would have to pay assorted fees at both universities. The costs of living in both of the towns are comparable (low).

My question is: is it common, or an acceptable practice, to use one university's offer as leverage against the other? For instance, "University X is offering me $3000 more per year, but I'd really rather attend your school. Can you match their offer?"

I don't want to burn any bridges with any schools if this is considered rude. I'm going to ask my advisor at my home institution about this, but I thought I'd ask here as well to get a wider range of opinions.

Thanks!
 
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  • #2
I would think it's "rude" (although perfectly acceptable in any other walk of life...) because universities want you to think they're doing you a favor (even though they know better). I'm not sure though... it'll be interesting to see what people think.
 
  • #3
I don't have experience with this kind of stuff, but from what I've heard it's somewhat rare for universities to rescind their admissions (others with more experience can say whether or not this is true in their experiences). If it is true, nothing (that) bad can come of you asking.
 
  • #4
Also consider the cost of living in both areas. The same dollar amount will take you further in Idaho than it will in New York City.
 
  • #5
Jack21222 said:
Also consider the cost of living in both areas. The same dollar amount will take you further in Idaho than it will in New York City.

He stated that he already found out the COL is comparable at both universities.
 
  • #6
Pengwuino said:
He stated that he already found out the COL is comparable at both universities.

I'm clearly a moron who doesn't read carefully. Please ignore me.
 
  • #7
Well they could always turn around and say something like "we may not be offering as much money, but we're offering better quality teaching".
 
  • #8
The more I think about this, the less I want to gamble by doing this. That top choice has active research groups in three fields that I'm interested in, and nearly every other course in their course catalog I'd kill to take.

They also mentioned they'd be nominating me for a fellowship that would basically make up for the smaller stipend. But that's not something that is guaranteed.

Picking your "favorite" grad schools is easy when you're a sophomore or junior surfing the web, but it's hard when you have to make the real decision!
 
  • #9
I wouldn't personally consider it "rude." The word "futile" comes to mind, though. Most of the time they have an established package to offer you on entry and they don't really have any way of deviating from that. The one exception is application for additional scholarships and stipends, which are more-or-less in your court.
 
  • #10
Most departments pay all TAs the same salary. Sometimes, TA salaries are the same across the whole university It's just easier on the payroll office that way. A TA is a TA.

Sorry, but I doubt you're a hot enough commodity in their eyes to justify the extra accounting-type work needed to put you in your own pay bracket. They will probably say that they can't do anything about your potential stipend and if you decide not to go there based on that, they will send an acceptance letter to one of the other 300 applicants.
 
  • #11
stringy said:
My question is: is it common, or an acceptable practice, to use one university's offer as leverage against the other? For instance, "University X is offering me $3000 more per year, but I'd really rather attend your school. Can you match their offer?"

I don't think it will hurt to ask. There is a 95% chance that the answer will be no, because TA stipends are typically set by university policy and sometimes by the state legislature through budgets.

The only situation where you might get an increase is if half the class asks the same question. Also if the difference is crucial for your deciding where to do, it's a good idea to let the university know why. It won't help you, but if the university is seeing that they can't get TA's because of stipends then they have ammunition to lobby the powers that be (including the state legislature) that they need more funding, and this will help the next batch of students.
 
  • #12
stringy said:
The more I think about this, the less I want to gamble by doing this. That top choice has active research groups in three fields that I'm interested in, and nearly every other course in their course catalog I'd kill to take.

I don't think that there is much of a gamble if you ask politely. One thing that you should realize is that the person you are e-mailing may agree completely that you are underpaid and by pointing out that other schools pay more, you are helping them do something about it.
 
  • #13
Thanks to everybody for replying. The advice given makes sense.
 
  • #14
stringy said:
Thanks to everybody for replying. The advice given makes sense.

One other thing is that there is a 95% chance that the department will say sorry, we can't help you.

The only situation were I think that the department would even think of matching the offer is if you aren't the only one that has the issue. If the department admitted twelve people, and three of them politely mentioned that they were considered other options because the stipends were higher, and if it turned out that those three were the strongest candidates, then there would at least been a meeting. What could happen is that department chair taps into discretionary funds for a one-time payment and then lobbies the university to increase tuition stipends across the board.

There are a lot of if's here, and it's extremely unlikely that stars will all align, but you really have nothing to lose. As long as you are polite about it, I think the department would appreciate knowing what the situation is. Also it could help you in the long run. If it becomes obvious that the university is losing students because of stipends, and then the department lobbies this issue when it comes budget time, your future stipends would increase.
 
  • #15
Which university is stronger in the field you are interested in? It's better to just swallow the wage if it is the stronger institution. Your advisor and research is much more important than $3000.
 

1. What is the purpose of leveraging offers in the grad school decision process?

Leveraging offers is the process of comparing and negotiating between multiple offers from different graduate schools in order to make an informed decision about which program to attend. This allows students to weigh factors such as funding, location, and program fit before making a final decision.

2. How do I go about leveraging offers?

The first step in leveraging offers is to carefully review all of the offers you have received. Consider factors such as program specialization, research opportunities, funding packages, and location. Then, reach out to the schools you are most interested in and ask if they can match or improve upon the offers you have received from other schools. Be prepared to provide specific details and negotiate for the best possible package.

3. What should I do if I receive a better offer after accepting an offer from another school?

If you receive a better offer after already accepting an offer from another school, you should reach out to the first school and respectfully decline their offer. Be sure to thank them for their consideration and explain that you have received a more competitive offer. It is important to do this as soon as possible, as it allows the school to offer the spot to another student.

4. How can I determine which offer is the best fit for me?

When comparing offers, it is important to consider not only the financial aspects, but also the academic and social aspects. Think about which program aligns best with your research interests and career goals. Additionally, consider the location and the opportunities for networking and professional development. It may also be helpful to reach out to current students or alumni to get their perspective on the program.

5. Is it appropriate to negotiate with graduate schools?

Yes, it is completely appropriate to negotiate with graduate schools. Just like with any job offer, schools understand that students may have received multiple offers and are looking for the best fit. However, it is important to be respectful and professional throughout the negotiation process. Remember to be grateful for the offers you have received and to clearly communicate your needs and expectations.

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