Alright to continue my posts of, hopefully, helpful advice, I'm going to spend a little bit of time today talking about offers. It should be noted that this advice holds true whether this is your first acceptance or your 10th. Remember how hard you worked for this, and how much you want it. Don't let the fact that you've been accepted somewhere else take away the excitement of future acceptances. Each acceptance is a big deal. To those of you who haven't been accepted yet, there's still plenty of time, please refer to my breath post.
You did it, you made it through the excruciating waiting period between submitting your applications and getting an interview. You celebrated being given an interview. You blew the socks off your interviewers with your intelligent and comical quips, intense focus on research interest and your snappy duds. You then sent thank you notes to all of your interviewers, remembering to include person specific anecdotes and thought provoking lines such as "Thank you for taking the time to interview me." You sat by your phone, constantly checking emails and looking for phone calls. And right when you thought for sure that they hated you, and you start thinking about life outside of a PhD program, you get the email/call.
Immediately upon receiving the email/call
1. Before you do anything else, breath a sigh of relief/thank whatever deity you worship. Your heart is going to start racing at this point, so take a chance to get yourself together before it starts.
2. Tell your significant other, or in the case where you are single, tell the most important person in your life. Call or text is really fine for this if you can't see them face to face.
3. Go crazy. Jump/scream/laugh/cry whatever your first feeling is, do it, as long as it is legal.
The night of your acceptance
1. Celebrate big. Instead of ordering from pizza hut, maybe spend the extra $5 and order from the local pizza place. Toast yourself with your drink of choice. No matter what you do, "Treat Yo' Self"
The next day
1. Start thinking about whether or not you want to accept. If this is your first acceptance, think about what programs would take precedence over it. Are you still waiting to hear from another program? Is this your top choice?
2. Take a look at the information the school inevitably sent you about the package they are offering.
3. Talk with people who's opinion is important to you. Does that prof who wrote you an LOR have some open time to discuss the pros and cons with you? Make an appointment if that is something you do.
4. Email the school to thank them for the offer. Let them know that you are considering their offer.
The following week/weeks
1. Try to sleep on it. Even if this is your top choice, give yourself one whole day to make a decision. The time will give you an opportunity to ensure that you are making the right choice.
2. Talk to enough people to make an informed decision, but not enough people to confuse the issue.
3. Email the school with any questions you have. These could be logistical in nature, or just more information that will help you to make an informed decision.
4. Try to talk with a current PhD student on the phone. They are going to provide you with specific advice that professors might not be able to. Including information about where someone on a student budget could live and night life.
5. Do some research on local day cares/schools if you have children. Get a feeling for what the lifestyle will be like for the child.
6. Do some research on the city as a whole. Are you interested in an art scene? What about weather? These data will not provide a huge amount of usable information for your decision making, but they're still nice to know.
7. Wait. Unless you know for sure that you will accept the offer, or you that you will definitely reject it (i.e. you have other offers that are more attractive), wait a little bit to see if other schools on your list are moving. You don't want to rush into a decision that will literally affect the rest of your life.
Once you've made your decision
1. Let your significant other know (if they haven't been involved in the decision process). They should know already and should have helped you get to the decision point, depending on status and length of relationship and all that jazz.
2. Let the school know. Follow whatever standards are expected for the school. I know that a lot of programs have you email the professor who made the offer and then fill out and scan in the forms. Even just a quick email or call to your POI is enough to get the ball rolling before you officially send in your acceptance.
3a. If you decided to accept the offer, go out and celebrate again (remember to try to celebrate all of lives little wins).
3b. If you decided to reject the offer, hopefully you did so because you have a better offer on hand and so you are going there. In that case refer to 3a.
4. Start looking for housing. This is a bigger deal than it sounds in some areas. Start considering how you are going to move, U-Haul, moving company, sell everything? There is time, but it gets away from you quickly if you aren't careful.
5. Talk to your POI. If you are in a field where you can start doing some lit review before you enter the program, this is probably a good idea. It's not necessary, though, so don't feel pressured.
6. Enjoy the last few months of life pre-PhD. Read a bunch of non-academic works, play a video game or 12, go fishing, take your significant other out dancing, do all the things that you will still be able to do during the program, but that will require better time management.
7. Smile. I can't stress enough that this is a big deal. Congratulations.
8. Come on here and tell us about your decision. We'd love to know!
I'm sure that I'm missing some things and that other members will have some input, but I think that this is a good place to start. As I and others have stated before the most important thing is to not let anyone else influence your decision to make a decision. While other applicants are waiting to hear back and would love for you to make a decision quickly, you need to do it on your own time. Take as long as you need. Good luck this season and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.