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Admissions Unsure about accepting PhD offer

  1. May 3, 2017 #1

    I'm in a bit of a dilemma and was wondering if I could get some advice on what I should do. So, I recently applied to graduate school and got rejected from every school I applied to. The reason was due to my unpreparedness and lack of confidence which seeped into my essays. I realize now that I was not ready and I made a financial and academic mistake applying as I applied primarily due to pressure. Because of this, I realized I would feel more comfortable doing a masters or post-bach program in physics. Honestly, I am unsure about what field of physics I want to study and I am feeling unsure if I really want to devote years of my life towards physics. This is why I felt that these programs could benefit me. I felt like I didn't have to be obligated to complete a 5-7 year program. I might want to complete a PhD in physics, but I don't have to be obligated to do so until after the program finalizes.

    So, I was received an offer for one of the schools I applied to for a post-bach / masters program. They don't have funding for me as a post-bach student in the program I applied to, but they have graduate funding and are willing to accept me to their program. Now, this is great and wonderful as the school is pretty good in physics, but I feel like if I accept I am obligated to complete the program. It is not that I would not be interested in doing a PhD program there, but I just was hoping that through this post-bach / masters program which was funded, I could work at the school for a year or two and then reapply for graduate school if I felt that I wanted to pursue a PhD. However, if I accept the offer for a PhD, I feel obligated to complete the program and stay at there for the entire duration even though I was hoping to reapply in two years time and possibly go somewhere else. I would more than willing like to do a post-bach / masters there, I just don't want to feel obligated to do a full PhD there if I do decide to go that route.

    So, what would you guys recommend I do? I feel in my gut that I should wait again and reapply. I think waiting a year while working with my current adviser would be the best route, but I am still unsure. I don't know how that would go with the school and whether they would accept me again if I reapplied. I also don't know how to explain my feelings to my adviser and my family. It would seem silly for me to waste this opportunity. I honestly feel scared about this decision in my life.

    Please let me know what you would recommend.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 3, 2017 #2
    It depends on only one factor: in what ways will your application be better in one year? Will you have more publications? A better pGRE score? Better letters of recommendation?

    A lot of people get rejected from their ideal programs and apply the next year just to find that their options are even worse.
  4. May 3, 2017 #3
    I think I would be able to get a better pGRE and also a publication and significantly improve my academic statement, but I really don't feel like that is really why I want to take some time off. I just don't feel that I am ready to devote 5-7 years of life towards a PhD right now. I am passionate about physics, but I am unsure about what I would like to specialize in. The program i was accepted to is a good program, but I just feel like I need time to really decide if going all the way is for me. I think I am mostly scared of the 5-7 year commitment and living in an area that I am totally excited about.
  5. May 3, 2017 #4

    Meir Achuz

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    Graduate schools never consider that a student who enters is obligated to complete the program. They have the freedom to drop you, and understand that you have the freedom to drop them. Don't let any sense of 'obligation' defer you. Accept the graduate program offer with funding. You also have to adopt a more positive attitude. Once in the graduate program, you will find out if that's what you want to pursue. You can't find that out by speculation at this point.
  6. May 3, 2017 #5


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    One of the advantages of systems that essentially admit into master's programs prior to the PhD is precisely this. You have the advantage of working in the field for about two years, getting a "taste" of academia and research, and then you have a way out if it's not for you, with something good to show for it.

    I wouldn't put a lot of faith in an improved essay as a decisive factor in graduate school admissions. Unless your essays this round said "yur skool suks but id go there ifn i cant get nothin better" chances are it didn't play a big role in your rejections. A publication would certainly help. An improved PGRE score could help too, but a lot can depend on how much weight this is given, and people often tend to overestimate their ability to improve their score.
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