For anyone pondering graduate study, the date of April 15th has some special significance. This is the day that many of us will make the final decision about where we are going to continue our education. This is also the day that the arduous waiting list game will cease. A substantial amount of wait-list movement occurs on or around April 15th, and the following is intended to help those of you sitting on a wait-list to approach this day efficiently and with minimal stress.
1. Narrow Your Options As Much As Possible-For some of you, it is simply inevitable that you will want to remain active on several wait-lists, especially if you don’t have any funded offers at this time. However, many of you, myself included, are sitting on a couple of funded offers and several intriguing wait-list possibilities. If possible, try to narrow your choices as much as you can. If you have multiple funded offers, try to narrow this down to the one that you would accept if no wait-list opportunities came through. After all, wait-lists are not guarantees until the offer is made, and it’s likely that your preferences regarding your actual offers won’t change based on admission off a wait-list. If possible, do the same with your wait-list options. If only one wait-list option would beat out your best funded offer, narrow it down to the two best possibilities, one wait-list and one acceptance. At a minimum, you should only hold on to wait-list positions that would almost certainly beat out your best funded offer.
2. Know What You Would Choose Ahead of Time-Chances are, if you are holding out for a possible wait-list admission, you may find yourself facing an on-the-spot decision about whether to accept an offer. If Dr. So and So from Roast Beef Tech calls you on April 15th and says you’ve been admitted off the wait-list, chances are he won’t be able to give you a couple days to think it over. Once you’ve narrowed your choices down as much as possible, you should be able to develop a fairly straightforward ranking system for what you would likely choose. For example, a funded offer from your top wait-list might be ranked first, followed by the funded offer you’ve been sitting on, and the unfunded offer from your top wait-list coming in a distant third. This makes what seemed like a difficult choice fairly simple. If Roast Beef Tech calls and offers you a funded position, you take it. If they don’t call, or don’t offer funding, you take the other offer. But the last thing you want to do is wait to make this decision until you have only a moment’s notice on the day that it must be made.
3. No Second-Guesses-This one is made easier when your choice is between several programs that you’d be happy with. It’s tough not to second-guess yourself with big life decisions, especially when it will still be at least a few months, if not many years, before you really know if you made the right call. However, the last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time second-guessing your decision-making. Once you’ve made your choice, that’s it. If Roast Beef Tech is the school you choose, start getting excited about it. The “what-if’s” have been a huge part of this process for several months, and making a decision means freedom from this self-inflicted misery. As long as you’ve done your best to learn about each program and tried to make the best decision possible, you’ve done your job.
As someone who is currently in the position of holding out for a possible wait-list acceptance before accepting a pretty nice funded offer, I suspect that this list will only be partially helpful. The best news is that whatever you decide, the arduous task of applying to philosophy PhD programs is almost over, and you can soon get back to the business of being a philosopher, wherever you decide to do so.
About the Author
Elijah Weber is a graduate student at Bowling Green State University. He holds a Master's degree in philosophy from Colorado State University, and Bachelor’s degrees in sociology and philosophy from Chapman University. He currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife Laura, his son Brandon, and two cats.