Jump to content
southie123

Take Good Acceptance Now or Reapply to Top Choice Next Year

Recommended Posts

Hi everyone, 

So to keep this brief, I applied to PhD programs in health policy this year and was fortunate enough to be accepted to multiple great programs. That said, I am based in Boston - where I live with my partner - and was hoping to get admitted to my top choice program in Boston (Harvard). I was, however, waitlisted, and while they have assured me I am at the top of the wait list, they were not particularly optimistic about any movement happening this year. I am planning to revisit the programs I was admitted to to be sure they would even fit well with me, but if they do I am really caught between a rock and a hard place here. My partner is a medical student in Boston, and has no flexibility to move any time soon. Going to this program would mean moving out of our apartment, splitting up our pets from their owners, etc. 

I have spoken to Harvard and they said a reapplication would never be guaranteed admission, but reapplicants have been successful in the past (no idea on the frequency). In addition, there is another program in Boston that I could go to and would have a strong chance of admission based on my results this year (I did not apply there this year), but it would definitely be a drop in program quality. I guess these are my questions:

(1) If I turned down the programs I was admitted to this year, would there be any chance I could apply again in the future, possibly when my partner has more flexibility? I know that this should have been taken into account this year, I was just told that advisors that I would most likely get into my top choice so it didn't seem like a huge potential problem. 

(2) What is the general consensus on reapplying? Assuming I don't get in off of the wait list, the program director said I was a great applicant who very well could have gotten in this year, the cards just didn't fall in my favor...so I know I am competitive, but I'm afraid I'd wait a year and then end up in the same position. 

(3) Would going to a lesser program really hurt my career overall? 

Thanks everyone!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems like *many* posters on GradCafe in general have been successful reapplying, and I have also specifically seen Harvard re-applicants be successful.  It proves to them that you are serious about attending that school in particular, and determined.  That being said, I think differences in acceptance from year to year has most to do with both the faculty compatibility, and the strength of each year's applicant pool, and there is no way of knowing how this year would compare to next year (if this year was especially good, so you were waitlisted, or if this year was below average, and you were still waitlisted? we don't know).  

I think the biggest thing to decide would be if the other Boston program next year would make you as happy as the non-Boston programs you've been admitted to this year (in the event you don't get into Harvard next year either).  If the answer is yes, then I think it's a no-brainer to wait a year, re-apply to Harvard and to the other Boston program, and go from there.  Are your other acceptances also significantly higher ranked than the Boston one?  Are they fully funded?  

As for career, it's a tough call.  If you want to be in academia, going to Harvard will be a big deal, I assume, but perhaps negligible compared to other top-ranked programs in your field. (I may have to make this call for my masters when I hear back from Harvard this Friday).  If you want to go into the work-force, I think name-brand gets you interviews and connections, but ultimately your career is what you make of it, how much effort you put into networking at WHATEVER school you attend, and being a good worker from there.  

Edited by Heather1011

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 minutes ago, Heather1011 said:

It seems like *many* posters on GradCafe in general have been successful reapplying, and I have also specifically seen Harvard re-applicants be successful.  It proves to them that you are serious about attending that school in particular, and determined.  That being said, I think differences in acceptance from year to year has most to do with both the faculty compatibility, and the strength of each year's applicant pool, and there is no way of knowing how this year would compare to next year (if this year was especially good, so you were waitlisted, or if this year was below average, and you were still waitlisted? we don't know).  

I think the biggest thing to decide would be if the other Boston program next year would make you as happy as the non-Boston programs you've been admitted to this year (in the event you don't get into Harvard next year either).  If the answer is yes, then I think it's a no-brainer to wait a year, re-apply to Harvard and to the other Boston program, and go from there.  Are your other acceptances also significantly higher ranked than the Boston one?  Are they fully funded?  

As for career, it's a tough call.  If you want to be in academia, going to Harvard will be a big deal, I assume, but perhaps negligible compared to other top-ranked programs in your field. (I may have to make this call for my masters when I hear back from Harvard this Friday).  If you want to go into the work-force, I think name-brand gets you interviews and connections, but ultimately your career is what you make of it, how much effort you put into networking at WHATEVER school you attend, and being a good worker from there.  

Thanks Heather! I'm less concerned about a program less than Harvard, and more concerned about reapplying, being unsuccessful, and then going to a much less highly regarded program overall (BU). I know that going to BU would not make me as happy as going to my other option (Hopkins) career-wise. That said, my personal life would remain drastically more stable, and I would be able to continue to live with my partner and not uproot my life, which is something I really don't want to do. 

He and I would be willing to do long-distance (or at least try it), but we've never been long-distance, and this would be four years minimum long-distance. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do think if your relationship is as important as it sounds, it is worth going at the application process again.  Is it possible to defer one of your other acceptances for a year? (And then decline if accepted to Harvard?).  Long-distance is tough, I am about to do that myself (But for 1-2 years, so the end is in sight before it begins).  My gut is saying that for two reasons you should try again next year... the fact that you were already *this* close to getting into Harvard, and the fact that your relationship is so important.  Would you and him be happy for all that time apart?  Would the relationship splinter in a negative way?  If you believe it's strong enough to withstand, then try it.  

If you weren't in a relationship, would you give up on Harvard and go to JHU?  My guess is you would.  

This post was less than helpful :( .  Maybe if you think about what would be a *wrong* choice.  I don't think re-applying would be a wrong choice, because you could achieve your dream outcome, or at least, attend BU.  It's certainly a highly respected school, although maybe less for your program compared to your other top acceptances.  On the other hand, going to Hopkins this year has no risk in my eyes, other than what it may do for your relationship.  So it sounds like it's the personal choice of knowing if the career risks outweigh the personal risks.

Edited by Heather1011

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
33 minutes ago, Heather1011 said:

I do think if your relationship is as important as it sounds, it is worth going at the application process again.  Is it possible to defer one of your other acceptances for a year? (And then decline if accepted to Harvard?).  Long-distance is tough, I am about to do that myself (But for 1-2 years, so the end is in sight before it begins).  My gut is saying that for two reasons you should try again next year... the fact that you were already *this* close to getting into Harvard, and the fact that your relationship is so important.  Would you and him be happy for all that time apart?  Would the relationship splinter in a negative way?  If you believe it's strong enough to withstand, then try it.  

If you weren't in a relationship, would you give up on Harvard and go to JHU?  My guess is you would.  

This post was less than helpful :( .  Maybe if you think about what would be a *wrong* choice.  I don't think re-applying would be a wrong choice, because you could achieve your dream outcome, or at least, attend BU.  It's certainly a highly respected school, although maybe less for your program compared to your other top acceptances.  On the other hand, going to Hopkins this year has no risk in my eyes, other than what it may do for your relationship.  So it sounds like it's the personal choice of knowing if the career risks outweigh the personal risks.

Thanks a lot again, I appreciate it. I don't think the programs would allow a deferral, but does anyone know if I turn down the offer now, can I apply again next year? I'm sure that looks bad, but is it even allowed?

The problem with the relationship, as you pointed out, is that it's potentially a very long time with no definitive end in sight. My program would be about 5 years, and he is currently a 1st year student (will be 2nd when I start my PhD) at Harvard Med. We definitely care enough about each other to try long distance, but the potential for five years apart is a little long for even the best relationships, I'd imagine...and particularly when we'd be going into that degree of separation from our current situation, which is living together, having two cats, etc. We've essentially built a life together, and I don't want to lose that...but I also don't want to destroy my future career for it. 

I'm very torn right now, and unfortunately I don't think there is any option that is free of risk. :( 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, southie123 said:

Thanks a lot again, I appreciate it. I don't think the programs would allow a deferral, but does anyone know if I turn down the offer now, can I apply again next year? I'm sure that looks bad, but is it even allowed?

The problem with the relationship, as you pointed out, is that it's potentially a very long time with no definitive end in sight. My program would be about 5 years, and he is currently a 1st year student (will be 2nd when I start my PhD) at Harvard Med. We definitely care enough about each other to try long distance, but the potential for five years apart is a little long for even the best relationships, I'd imagine...and particularly when we'd be going into that degree of separation from our current situation, which is living together, having two cats, etc. We've essentially built a life together, and I don't want to lose that...but I also don't want to destroy my future career for it. 

I'm very torn right now, and unfortunately I don't think there is any option that is free of risk. :( 

Also, with medical school, there is also the risk that even after he is done with his classes, he could be placed in a residency in another city or state altogether, right?  So even you investing in Boston would be short-term, and he might not even be in Boston by the time you are done :( .  It sounds like either way, you'd wind up long distance at some point. I agree that 5 years apart would be no bueno, so if you can put your foot down and say "You know what, I'd rather go to BU than lose this relationship," then that's incredible, but that's hard to do given how hard you've worked to get to this point.  If the fact is you know the relationship probably couldn't survive 5 years long distance, then that has to be something you can be OK with ultimately happening, and that's a scary thing to talk about.  I was crying the other night just freaking out about how "we're both going to change" in the time I move away, and that's only for 1-1.5 years.  

I don't want to underestimate the fact that I think you have a very good chance of getting admitted to Harvard next year too, and that would greatly simplify this problem :D  Also, don't lose hope on that waitlist.  Being this close bodes well for next year, because they will likely remember you (especially if you try to keep in contact/keep your name fresh in their minds).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 minutes ago, Heather1011 said:

Also, with medical school, there is also the risk that even after he is done with his classes, he could be placed in a residency in another city or state altogether, right?  So even you investing in Boston would be short-term, and he might not even be in Boston by the time you are done :( .  It sounds like either way, you'd wind up long distance at some point. I agree that 5 years apart would be no bueno, so if you can put your foot down and say "You know what, I'd rather go to BU than lose this relationship," then that's incredible, but that's hard to do given how hard you've worked to get to this point.  If the fact is you know the relationship probably couldn't survive 5 years long distance, then that has to be something you can be OK with ultimately happening, and that's a scary thing to talk about.  I was crying the other night just freaking out about how "we're both going to change" in the time I move away, and that's only for 1-1.5 years.  

I don't want to underestimate the fact that I think you have a very good chance of getting admitted to Harvard next year too, and that would greatly simplify this problem :D  Also, don't lose hope on that waitlist.  Being this close bodes well for next year, because they will likely remember you (especially if you try to keep in contact/keep your name fresh in their minds).

Yeah, there are a lot of factors. He has also said that when he finishes med school, he would do everything in his power to stay in Boston (that's his preference to begin with, as he's from here and has connections at HMS hospitals here). No idea what to do. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 minutes ago, southie123 said:

Yeah, there are a lot of factors. He has also said that when he finishes med school, he would do everything in his power to stay in Boston (that's his preference to begin with, as he's from here and has connections at HMS hospitals here). No idea what to do. 

Mind if I ask how old you are?  How settled?  I think this is really an age-dependent, life-situation dependent thing.  I'm 25, I've been with my boyfriend for 1.5 years, so even though I love him and can picture a future with him, I'm very much in selfish-independent-career-ME mode.  I guess you have to decide if you are still in "ME" or "US" mode, or what percentage of you is there.  And that's a hard thing to honestly answer to yourself, let alone to him.  But I think that's the crux of this decision... is it an "US" decision or a "ME" decision.  What does he think?  Is he trying to be supportively neutral? 

Edited by Heather1011

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
24 minutes ago, Heather1011 said:

Mind if I ask how old you are?  How settled?  I think this is really an age-dependent, life-situation dependent thing.  I'm 25, I've been with my boyfriend for 1.5 years, so even though I love him and can picture a future with him, I'm very much in selfish-independent-career-ME mode.  I guess you have to decide if you are still in "ME" or "US" mode, or what percentage of you is there.  And that's a hard thing to honestly answer to yourself, let alone to him.  But I think that's the crux of this decision... is it an "US" decision or a "ME" decision.  What does he think?  Is he trying to be supportively neutral? 

26, similar situation...been together a bit longer, and currently living together. He is doing what he can to be supportive, but for a long time I told him I wouldn't go anywhere if I didn't get into Harvard and I was applying to other schools as practice interviews, essentially. I didn't realize how arrogant this was, solely because my boss told me applicants "like me" could usually bank on getting into Harvard. I think he's trying to be neutral, but he also feels like me potentially leaving is coming out of left field - which it is, for both of us. It's just that I never really realized that I could be looking at my career not moving forward if I didn't get in. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, southie123 said:

26, similar situation...been together a bit longer, and currently living together. He is doing what he can to be supportive, but for a long time I told him I wouldn't go anywhere if I didn't get into Harvard and I was applying to other schools as practice interviews, essentially. I didn't realize how arrogant this was, solely because my boss told me applicants "like me" could usually bank on getting into Harvard. I think he's trying to be neutral, but he also feels like me potentially leaving is coming out of left field - which it is, for both of us. It's just that I never really realized that I could be looking at my career not moving forward if I didn't get in. 

I feel for you.  I'm in a totally less serious version of this conversation with my roommate, who has been my best friend for 10 years.  I told her I wanted to go to Columbia (aka stay in NYC and still be her roommate), and that I just applied to Harvard, Penn, and NYU on a whim.  This was true for about 6 months, I was *only* considering applying to Columbia.  Well, Columbia is now my third choice, (which was not international, just naturally developed), so she's feeling kind of betrayed.  Obviously this is not as emotionally important as your situation, but I can picture how he would feel surprised and confused by this.  You probably pictured it wouldn't have to be an issue because you'd get into Harvard, and then you'd never have to deal with the situation at hand.  The fact of the matter is, you really DO want your career to move forward, you DO have amazing opportunities ahead of you.  Also, just going back to your original question... I don't think career prospects from Hopkins would be any lower than Harvard.

Edited by Heather1011

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also, I think it's fairly common for PhD applicants to reapply, even to schools they were rejected by.  So, hypothetically, if you tried again next year, you could repeat some of your acceptances from this year, add BU to the list, and hopefully Harvard.  And if you got rejected from Harvard, you can make a real choice.  It seems likely that you'd be accepted again next year to the same programs, or at least some of them, and that will at least give you another shot at Harvard.

On a separate note, mind if I ask what made your boss believe you'd be a "shoe-in" for Harvard?  I've almost never heard of such a statement being true, so I'm just curious what your background is.

Edited by Heather1011

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having the same issue. My partner is in medical school around Philadelphia, I got accepted to a few programs 3-7 hours away. 

My options are (1) go into a masters program locally and reapply to UPenn, Princeton, etc. in two years or (2) start a PhD program with a fellowship in the fall at a lower quality (still top 25) program. I will most likely take one of the offers and move out. My rationale is that if I wait 1-2 years then she will finish her program before me and we may end up having the identical problem when she looks for residencies, (plus paying 30K for a masters degree and forgoing a fellowship seems like a steep price). If you are both going to be super busy planning weekend trips to see each other and having more alone time during the week may actually not be the worst thing. Regardless, I am very interested in hearing opinions from people who may have already traveled this path. Best of luck and I hope everything works out.

 

PS Congrats on even being waitlisted at Harvard, very impressive.

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

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

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