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Accepted offer but want to ask if I can defer a year?

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Wondering if anyone has any advice... I was accepted to an unfunded Master's MA from a prestigious school for a history program (which I had thought was my "reach" application). It is required to attend full time for two years. From conversations I've had, most of the students in this small program are well set up to then apply for PhD programs-- many stay at that school to continue on to PhDs (through a de facto admittance process), some go on to other top-notch PhDs programs, etc. To be honest, I feel that I would need something like this if I was to later consider applying to a PhD program-- my undergraduate record in history was good and my GRE scores are excellent, and I've been told my SOP is very strong and focused; however overall undergrad GPA is suffering due to an unrelated stint I had early on in undergrad with pre-medicine courses. I need a history-only Master's program to show that I am a capable performer in the field when I am not taking an entire 4-year history major in 1.5 years and working 2 part time jobs... So, overjoyed at the best prospect I had for opening the door to future options, I accepted.


Meanwhile, I have been working another unrelated job in an unrelated industry since completing undergrad to attempt to save some small amount of money. Upon hearing that I was leaving in August for graduate school, I was offered a very significant raise to stay with the company. Not enough that would pay for an entire year tuition+expenses of the two year program or anything, but would significantly lessen my debt. With the understanding that, hypothetically if I took it, my company knows I would probably leave next year for a program anyway, thus they would have just delayed my leaving for one year. Unfortunately, that offer was ill-timed and happened just a few days ago, and I have already accepted my admissions offer to the program, submitted deposit etc, back in April.


Additionally, I have a medical issue that *may* require surgery to occur relatively soon. I have more upcoming doctors appointments but will not know for several weeks probably if surgery is necessary. If it is, I will be crutch ridden for many months with a campus that is very difficult to access with crutches... Not impossible, but not ideal.


I am not completely set on even attempting to put off school for another year, and also really do not care about the industry I am currently working in and would not stay past another year, but just wondering how to go about finding out what my options are. More background notes about the school:

-The graduate school at the university has a deferral form online, so I believe it's not entirely dis-allowed, but most likely that is intended for admitted students who have not yet accepted.

-Program accepts 6-8 students each year; at any given time, some of them are at one institution and some of them are the other (joint degree). 


Some pros/cons I've thought of if I were try to defer for a year...



- earn more money/defray some debt (hoping they understand my reservations considering it is an unfunded program)

- It is a 2 year joint program; 1 year of the program is in the UK. I was planning to do that portion in the 2015-2016 school year, which would have been my second year if I started Fall 2014 but which will be my first year if I start Fall 2015. Students have a choice of which to do when and I want to do it in that year regardless of if I defer, so then my second year would then be in the US in 2016-2017. Having extra money will, given that the UK year would now be first, make the Visa process easier and defray the amount of debt I will need to take out/have in the bank for the Visa approval.

- If I do not wish to continue with the PhD program and wish to instead pursue employment prospects immediately following my MA completion.. It will be much better for salary negotiations to be able to report that my last salary was X amount (the high offer) vs. the current amount.

- The extra time would potentially allow me to explore other funding options. (Thinking outside funding.. I do not expect that the program would be able to offer me any if I waited another year although I could be mistaken.)

- Money to pay for medical treatments if they are necessary (beyond what is covered by insurance). Would not help with the school debt portion but would help with the general less-debt situation.



- I do not want the school to frown upon me asking if it is an option. The admission is very selective and I do not want to p*ss someone off by making seem as if I have set the program aside for something else-- (more money and "maybe" surgeries..) because that is not the case. If it came down to it, I would do the program this year. I want to do it, period-- just want to know if I could possibly wait to do it for another year. But, will the director, professors, etc. immediately dislike me for asking? (from a prestige perspective)

- I do not want the program to think I am not able to pay. I am willing to incur the debt for the opportunity, and I would this year, but I just would really prefer to save a little more money if I could. Sadly, I know I am probably one of "those applicants" that was accepted in part because they are not requiring funding offers.

- Is there anyway they can take away my admissions offer if I ask? No, right? I submitted deposit etc...


Anybody have any insight about this type of situation? "Deferring" if you've already accepted? Thanks in advance!

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Generally, from what I've seen, there aren't "deferrals" in graduate admissions, as such. They can't necessarily hold a spot next year for you, or hold over a spot from this year for you to take next year. Some cases of medical issues are different, and this might fall under that.


Likely, they'll tell you that they will reconsider you next year. If you got in this year, you are likely competitive for next year- but you might get edged out, and it's a risk you take. 

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Personally, I wouldn't even mention the salary increase as a reason for deferring. It isn't in the same industry and trying to defer on those grounds might have them question your seriousness and commitment to their program.


If it is likely you will require surgery, I would state your case and why you would like to defer (how it will impact your ability to keep up with school) and see what happens. Given that it's already mid-June, they might say no. But I don't think it will do you much harm to ask. If there is a chance you won't be getting the surgery, be careful in how you explain this situation. Tell them it is quite likely you will be getting one, but you will know for certain by X date. If you tell them you need surgery, attend the school and don't end up having surgery, they are quite likely to think that you were lying.


I wouldn't worry about reporting your last year's salary. It is in a different industry, your cv, education and job qualifications will be completely different so how much you previously earned won't matter much. For instance, if a medical doctor has an epiphany and decides to go back to school to become a high school teacher this teacher wouldn't be getting anything close to a doctor's salary. When you're switching fields salary isn't relevant, imo. 

Edited by jenste
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  • 3 weeks later...

First, I question whether you really need the MA.  If your history grades are excellent, you have excellent GRE scores, and a strong and focused SOP - well, that's most of the battle.  Your pre-med grades are going to be less relevant.  If you have like a 3.2 overall but a 3.7 in history, I don't think a C- in organic chemistry your sophomore year is really going to matter to the admissions committee.  (FWIW, I had a similar experience in psychology - an overall 3.42 GPA but a ~3.66 psychology major GPA, and I got in.)

Anyway, in my experience most academic graduate programs do not defer - especially if you come in with a small cohort of students - with the exception of medical issues and military deployments.  I agree that I would not ask for a deferral because you got a raise at your job - it's completely irrelevant to them.  The bottom line is, what do you want - the job or the degree?  I, too, would request it on the medical basis - if you know you are having a surgery in the next year and will have mobility issues, you can explain that.


I was also thinking the same as jenste wrt salary negotiations in the future.  Unless you plan to re-enter the same field, your previous salary won't matter much.

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