Jeffrey Engler, Vice President, Special Projects, Council of Graduate Schools

    Many graduate programs are now preparing to recruit next year’s class of new students. In this article, I review the April 15 Resolution and how it affects the ways in which graduate programs at your institution prepare and manage offers to the applicants that they want to recruit.

    The expectations of the April 15 Resolution, in a nutshell:

    What is the April 15 Resolution?

    The April 15 resolution is an agreement among the signatory graduate schools to provide applicants appropriate time to consider offers of admission that also includes financial support. This agreement allows applicants to evaluate their offers from graduate programs and to identify the educational opportunity that best aligns with their career goals and aspirations. Financial support includes fellowships, scholarships, assistantships, and any other type of funding (such as a “signing bonus” for early acceptance of an offer). More than 325 institutions have agreed to adhere to the goals of the April 15 Resolution. Both master’s and doctoral programs that offer financial assistance to applicants are included in the April 15 Resolution. The Resolution only applies to offers with financial support made for entry into graduate training during the Fall semester; it does not apply to entry into programs during Winter, Spring, or Summer academic terms.

    What are the responsibilities of graduate deans and graduate programs regarding the April 15 Resolution?

    Graduate deans should communicate the expectations of the April 15 resolution to all graduate programs, both those under their administrative oversight as well as those in other schools within their institution. To assist deans with this communication, CGS provides sample letters and an FAQ to graduate deans describing the Resolution to distribute to their graduate programs early each Fall semester. Graduate programs should include information about the April 15 Resolution in any offer of admission with financial support to an applicant, to affirm that they adhere to the understandings of the Resolution. 

    How does the April 15 Resolution affect offers of financial support made to student applicants?

    Graduate deans are sometimes required to adjudicate conflicts that may arise from offers of financial support made to applicants.

    • Some applicants may receive offers of financial support from programs at several institutions. It is a violation of the spirit of the Resolution to pressure applicants to accept before the April 15 deadline or to offer other inducements for an early decision.
    • Some applicants who have accepted offers of admission with financial support before the April 15 deadline may receive additional offers from other institutions after the deadline. If an applicant chooses to accept one of these new offers, they must first be released from their prior acceptance made before April 15.
    • Some programs may choose deadlines for acceptance earlier than April 15; if those offers include financial support, that earlier deadline is a violation of the Resolution. If the offer of acceptance into the program contains no offer of financial support, then a program can set any deadline they choose.
    • Students may be accepted by graduate programs based in individual colleges or schools within a signatory institution but whose programs are outside of the oversight of the graduate dean. This situation happens most often with graduate programs in business or in health and medical professions. Applicants may believe that they have until April 15 to decide, but in fact the program may have set an earlier deadline date because they do not abide by the Resolution.

    In the cases above, graduate deans should work with the graduate programs within their institution to resolve disputes that occur. For disputes that involve offers from programs at another institution, the best approach may be a collegial telephone call or email to the graduate dean at the institution where a violation of the Resolution may have occurred.

    Reaffirming the April 15 Resolution

    The current Resolution was last reaffirmed on October 1, 2014, for a term of 5 years. The CGS Board is currently reviewing the Resolution, prior to its reaffirmation in October 2019.

    As part of their review of the usefulness of the Resolution, CGS distributed a survey to all graduate deans in May 2018, to determine their level of satisfaction with the Resolution; 191 responses from institutions were received. The survey asked whether the Resolution remains an effective tool for managing offers of financial support. As can be seen in figure 1, most graduate deans (90%) find it useful.

    The survey also asked graduate deans about the deadline date of April 15 for acceptance of offers of financial aid; 72% of deans responded to retain the April 15 decision deadline.

    The CGS Board is considering the data from this survey during their reaffirmation process for the April 15 Resolution.  CGS will provide updates to the graduate dean community as the CGS Board completes its deliberations to reaffirm the Resolution.


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