Application Fees and Timely Decisions

Application Fees and Timely Decisions


A prospective graduate student—call him Prospecto—has reported the following:

I applied to the Philosophy Ph.D. program at [very good university], submitting a completed application and paying the substantial application fee by the deadline. I then I heard nothing. On April 16, the day after one has to decide -– if one is lucky –- what grad school offer to accept, I wrote to the school’s grad admissions office, requesting a refund of my application fee. They refused, and also refused to bring the matter to the attention of the Dean of the Admissions Office, as I requested. On April 17 I received an automated letter of denial of admission signed, not by the Philosophy department, but by the Admissions Office.

It is a longstanding convention that April 15th is the day by which graduate admissions in philosophy are settled. There is sometimes slippage on that, as names are moved off of waitlists and contacted, but typically by the 15th graduate students can expect to be told whether they have been accepted, rejected, or waitlisted. Prospecto paid the application fee, but received no decision or information whatsoever, from neither the department nor the graduate school, by April 15th. It seems he paid for nothing.

Sometimes graduate admissions offices and departments are not on the same page, and miscommunication and mistakes happen (e.g., several years ago a few people were mistakenly admitted to a philosophy PhD program by a graduate admissions office, unbeknownst to anyone in the department, and the department did not find out until those admitted tried to contact the department to arrange visits). Prospecto’s case could be just a rare error, or it could be part of a widespread problem. It would be interesting to learn about what is normal and expected here. So, a few questions:

(1) How common is what happened to Prospecto? Has it happened to you as a prospective graduate student? Faculty, does this occur at your school?

(2) Should a prospective graduate student be entitled to a full or partial refund if no decision or information about his or her application is provided prior to the April 15th deadline?

(3) Should prospective graduate students interpret silence as rejection?

(image: detail of Lunar Calendar by Dimitre Lima)

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