Jump to content
BlackTea

Deferring PhD for personal (relationship) reasons..?

Recommended Posts

I am currently residing in Europe and my partner and I are in a long-term relationship and neither of us are American citizens. Moving is a big deal for us, and we would like to make long distance across continents as short as possible. While I am pretty certain that I would like to pursue a phd in the US, right now my partner has less mobility as he is still finishing his degree for another year and a half. Ideally, I would like to defer a year so that we both have time to figure out if he can also come to the US and find a job (or more school). I don't know if this is a good enough reason for a program to let me defer for a year. Given the program is very competitive and funding is provided, how do you recommend I communicate my wishes? Anyone had similar situation? I am super excited about getting into these top programs, but my personal circumstances are making the decision making process very complicated and emotionally draining...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Deferments are ultimately up to each individual program. However, I think they usually reserve those for circumstances such as illness pregnancy, or maybe a death in the family (essentially, issues that may have arisen after you applied and that are out of your control). You can absolutely try to speak with them, but they will most likely tell you to apply when you're ready. Good luck!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm with Hk328 on thinking that these deferments are for very special circumstances (and most likely relationships are not one of them, sry). Since this is something that they expect applicants to have in mind (family distance, relationships, etc), I don't believe a committee will give defer on such grounds, so ultimately it is up to you to decide.

There are some questions that you may ask yourself to find out where your feelings and motivation are (at least I considered these before making a decision):

-  if suddenly you find yourself without your partner after rejecting an offer (for any reason), do you think you would be happy with your decision?

- is the presence of your partner essential for you to succeed in your studies? usually, the first years are brutal and you don't have much time anyway

- do you think s/he would do the same for you?

- if you are rejected for asking a deferral, how do you think you would feel? 

- if you receive an offer and not get the deferral, decide to maintain your relationship and reject the offer, but next year you don't get an offer and your partner gets one, how do you think you would feel?

- if you don't apply (or enter) now, what are your plans to still be competitive for the next applications round?

- If ten years from now you are either 1) with this partner but without dream degree OR 2) with dream degree but without this partner, which one would you choose?

Don't need to answer here, those are just to help you to think about the situation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Do you have an offer? If you do, then the deferral is easier because you are–to some degree–"in". 

Now, in my program I've seen deferrals only when incoming students won fellowships and needed to postpone the starting of the doctoral degree. This was something the program saw as an opportunity for those students to grow intellectually and professionally, which is why I suspect they granted the deferrals. 

We've had many international students apply (myself included) but I've never heard of granting a deferral for long distance relationship issues. Furthermore, most of us conduct international research so most of us (married people with kids included) have to undergo the long distance at some point. 

This is clearly a conversation to have with your partner first (if you haven't already) about your professional goals and how to pursue them. And if not, it is totally fine not to go the distance. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

tl;dr I'd accept the offer.

I was in a similar situation last year. I applied at a top program because, for years, I kept saying I would. I got in and, after discussing it with my partner, we decided it was better for me to go ("It's been your dream since forever" and stuff like that). Very emotional things happened, but we both want to have a long-term relationship. The first year (which I'm currently in) is indeed brutal. The American system, for me, differs from the European one because you're caught in a near psychotic environment made of stress and coffee for three months - no time for a real relationship, as far as I'm concerned - then you are in a void. That's when you go back and spend a very good time with your partner. You can also meet once during the semester, making the wait shorter. Plus, if you're both committed, the long distance might be a good test for your relationship. It sucks, it really does, but when my partner and I talk on the phone or see each other we're back at the beginning of our relationship, on the verge of cheesiness sometimes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have had similar situations and I considered deferring. I talked to a couple of profs, and from my understanding, it is pretty hard to do. It would be a strong enough reason if you guys are married, if not, prob not a strong reason for them to consider. Also, it depends on if the prof really wants you. If you have high GPA, great GRE, or maybe even some conference papers, then you are in better odds for them to do it. Lastly, it also depends on their funding availability. Lets say a prof wants you to do research for them due to your previously demonstrated abilities of the area. He/she may still not be able to do it because the funding is left for only 1 more year. NSF and other funding sources for STEM majors (I am mechanical engineering myself so IDK about the art schools) often only give findings up to 4-5 years. If you are onto a bad timing then you are out too. That being said, you should talk to the prof who wants you, or the department if not a specific prof. There are just too much bureaucracy in this to know it certainly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh btw, I dont think staying in another country is good for relationship. I have had a relationship like that once. I am not a believer of that. So if you end up accepting the offer and leaving your partner, you should prepare for potential breakup. And that is the reality. Whats more, relationship is about compromises. If it ends up not be able to defer, you can still not go to that school. There would be other opportunities for you to fulfill your dream. One example would be go back to your undergrad profs, and ask them for a job to work at the lab. Work on your skills then apply again. After all, this is not just about you and you only anymore (presume you really love your partner and want to go further down the road). Having a relationship is great; chasing dreams is also amazing. Pursue your dream and conquer your difficulties along the way with your lover, in my opinion, is more meaningful. Because after 10, 20 years and you look back and ask yourself, you will be thankful for the decisions you have made to get to that great life: achieving your dream while holding your partners hands. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If I were you then I would have accepted the offer. 

I am planning to complete my higher studies in the US and my partner has decided to do the same but in Canada. When we spoke about it in the beginning, it was not a happy conversation. While he wanted to me to get the best deserving education in the US, I wanted him to accompany me and find better opportunities in the US instead of Canada. However, later, I realized that I was just being selfish. Things will be uncertain and probably my worst fears would become a reality but I don't want any sacrifice to become a regret in the future. I want the best for him and myself as well and that is what ultimately matters.:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Late to comment, but I deferred from my current MA for a year for relationship reasons--wanted my partner to finish his MS so we could move together. The program had no problem with my deferment, didn't even care why. I know several other folks who've done so as well, for a variety of more and less important reasons. I don't know why everyone in this thread seems to think they're impossible--they're somewhat common, at least in my experience. 

Though it depends on the program and the application year, a lot of places are happy to hold your place/funding for a year because that means they can admit someone else they were excited about (real applications this year are always more exciting than giving up a spot for a hypothetical application next year). If you've already been accepted, I don't think it would hurt to at least put some feelers out. I wouldn't broach the subject til I had an admissions letter in hand, though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/14/2019 at 7:24 AM, BlackTea said:

I am currently residing in Europe and my partner and I are in a long-term relationship and neither of us are American citizens. Moving is a big deal for us, and we would like to make long distance across continents as short as possible. While I am pretty certain that I would like to pursue a phd in the US, right now my partner has less mobility as he is still finishing his degree for another year and a half. Ideally, I would like to defer a year so that we both have time to figure out if he can also come to the US and find a job (or more school). I don't know if this is a good enough reason for a program to let me defer for a year. Given the program is very competitive and funding is provided, how do you recommend I communicate my wishes? Anyone had similar situation? I am super excited about getting into these top programs, but my personal circumstances are making the decision making process very complicated and emotionally draining...

You communicate to them exactly like that.  Except for the last part.  Programs are actually pretty good at working with those admitted, but not all universities offer deferred time. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
On 2/25/2019 at 9:11 PM, Anxiously Hopeful said:

Things will be uncertain and probably my worst fears would become a reality but I don't want any sacrifice to become a regret in the future.

Well, that raises the question: what is more important to you?  Is the name of the university on your degree more important or is your partner?  I think the answer is different for everyone.  But ask yourself, what if you died while in graduate school?  Would it have been worth it?  Important questions to ask yourself for anyone considering going into university together with a partner or separate for their careers.

Edited by Ternwild

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
55 minutes ago, Ternwild said:

Well, that raises the question: what is more important to you?  Is the name of the university on your degree more important or is your partner?  I think the answer is different for everyone.  But ask yourself, what if you died while in graduate school?  Would it have been worth it?  Important questions to ask yourself for anyone considering going into university together with a partner or separate for their careers.

 

First of all, I do not see career and love as mutually exclusive. For me, education builds my self-esteem and so does my partner and both are in the same boat, so in such a scenario an understanding is essential.  

Questions like what if I died in graduate school and would it be worth it? would not land me in a happy place. 

 I can literally die right now when I am living with my parents, so is it worth it living with my parents.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm also considering deferral because I'm pregnant. EDD in August. I am also an international student. I have a couple of offers from PhD programs I have been dreaming of. I wonder when is the best timing to communicate with my potential advisors/programs? What is the worst case scenario? I heard some programs requires you to re-apply if you defer.

Thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, VickyG said:

I'm also considering deferral because I'm pregnant. EDD in August. I am also an international student. I have a couple of offers from PhD programs I have been dreaming of. I wonder when is the best timing to communicate with my potential advisors/programs? What is the worst case scenario? I heard some programs requires you to re-apply if you defer.

Thanks!

You need to speak to all of them right away.  Most of them have clauses for pregnancy and childbirth.  This is not a conversation you should really be having with randos on the internet.  Childbirth is a serious and career changing event and you need to communicate with these programs and see who accommodates you the best. 

You need to consider how much time will need to recover, whether they have child care facilities, whether you have childcare alternatives, whether you need to work from home on some of your PhD work in order to care for the new born, etc..  Please get on the phone with these programs, immediately, and inform them of your situation.  How well they can accommodate your health and well-being needs to be a deciding factor in your decision making, well above the academic prowess of a program.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.