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Need Advice / Encouragement About Whether Or Not To Accept A Grad School Offer


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Basically, I have been accepted to a doctoral degree program. It’s the right degree to get a job doing what I want to be doing. I’m extremely happy about it. It is in a different state than the one I currently live in, so accepting the offer would mean moving. Now, here come the issues. 

I currently work full time and I have health insurance. I am in the process of preparing to get a surgery done. For privacy reasons, I won’t go into detail about the exact surgery, but this surgery is not literally life or death, but would be extremely life improving for me. Right now, it feels like getting this surgery is like one of the most important things in my life. The tricky thing is that due to covid, I can't get the surgery right away. I have not been given an exact date, but it is looking like I wouldn’t be able to get the surgery until August. With that being the case, I would no longer have my current health insurance, as I would have left the job and started school by then. If I accept my offer and go to school and leave my job, then I will lose my insurance and therefore won’t be able to afford the surgery. 

On the other hand, if I stay where I am now at my current job and turn down the grad school offer in order to get the surgery, I am terrified I will never get the chance again. I mean, is it really worth it to turn down something as great as a doctoral opportunity for a surgery?? Will I be good enough to get in anywhere next year? I feel like I barely got in this year.

I know this post is kind of jumbled and going nowhere. I guess my question is, does anyone have any advice or words of encouragement for dealing with an uncertain future. I am at a complete loss about what I should do right now and the deadline is approaching. If I turn down the offer, I know it doesn’t have to be forever and I could still apply next year, but I have a sinking feeling I wouldn’t be able to get in again. If I go to the program and forgo the surgery, I feel like I won’t really be able to live the type of life that I want.

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Can you get insurance through the program or through the state? Most grad students don't make much, so you may qualify for Medicaid. Also, would just getting the surgery in a few years be an option if you can't get it in grad school?

Only you can make this decision, but you have to decide whether the surgery or starting grad school this year is more important for you. No one else can make that judgment call for you. 

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If your health insurance is through your employer you sometimes get a grace period after your last day of employment that your insurance is still active. For me it was 30days after my last day of work. I would call your insurance and see if there is anything like that. Also maybe speaking with your current employer and seeing if you can delay your official last day so it can cover August. When I started at my program our health insurance didn't kick in until a month later and even then when there is a change in insurance sometimes the new insurance wants you to do all the appointments again to verify your need or eligibility for surgery, even if you're going to the same doctors as with the previous insurance.

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Hi there, 

I can understand your concern because I have the issue too: moving to another state will be a lost of opportunity to my health insurance benefit, including a medical treatment that I am currently undergoing. In my case, I will accept my offer and make the most out of the benefit now while I can. I will need to adjust what they have for the school insurance, but my condition is not urgent. I still can treat my condition without going to a doctor.

For your condition, is there a chance to defer? Probably your case might be considered by the school because you have some circumstances with health. If that's not an option, do you think you can do grad school without the surgery? A doctoral program is a lot of commitment. Doing PhD with a good physical and mental health on itself will already be a challenge, let alone doing with a health condition. Maybe that's a perspective you want to think of. For me, quality of life goes first and you need to start a PhD by knowing the consequences and maybe support that the school can provide for you. 

Listen to yourself, and I believe if you can get in now, you still can get in later. 

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This is tough and a decision only you can make. As others have suggested, it may not be an either/or situation. This is a tough situation. As others have suggested, it may not be an either/or situation. 

In addition to asking about a grace period for your current health insurance, university health plans can be good and may provide coverage for your surgery. I would check it out and see if it would be covered too so you could still get the surgery while in the program.

If it is not covered, asking to defer is another option. It may not always be entertained but there's no harm in asking. 

This has been mentioned already but navigating physical health (and mental health that is closely related) can be a challenge when you are doing a PhD. Prioritizing self-care is good practice as a clinician in the future. This has been a particular competitive year so getting in this year means you are a competitive applicant, and there will be other opportunities in the future.

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Agreeing with @Rerunabove - have you considered asking about the option of deferring for a year? I don't know the statistics on it, if programs are really open to that or not for a first-year, but maybe if you explain your health circumstances, an exception could be made. Also, I agree that if you've gotten in once, you can get in again - surely you would spend the time over the next year making improvements to your application, right? ;) So your chances certainly at least won't go down if you decide to pass this season.

That said, have you looked into the health insurance offered by your new (possibly) institution? Many if not most PhD programs offer health insurance to their grad students- at mine, for instance, it is required unless you provide proof that you are covered by a parent or spouse's insurance, and the institution pays the lion's share of the premium costs. It may be that you will still be able to have the surgery in your new location, just slightly delayed while your new physicians get caught up on your case and needs. A delayed surgery may be worth the wait if it allows you to move forward towards your long-term goals. But only you can decide which is most important. 

They aren't wrong - doing a PhD is challenging enough when you are in perfect mental and physical health. However, let's not be too ableist either - plenty of people successfully complete their programs while also experiencing health changes or difficulties. The key element is a supportive environment that recognizes your needs as important, and allows you to develop in ways that work for both you and them. 

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Another option to look into - check with your current employer about COBRA insurance. You may be able to pay a higher premium for a few months after you leave the job to keep your insurance, which would allow you to have the surgery and begin your program. It will be more expensive, but hopefully would still save money overall on the survey if you can keep your current insurance a few months longer.

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Thank you guys for your words and suggestions. I have reached out to the university and they have given me an admission deferral form to fill out, so I have sent that in and now I am just waiting to see if it will be approved or denied. If I can get the approval, then I can start in Fall 2022 instead of Fall 2021 and by then I will have had the operation.

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