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Hi everyone, so I'm in a bit of a predicament. Like many applicants, I'm applying with my boyfriend who has been interviewing all over the place for MD/PhD. We applied to many of the same places but due to the competitive nature of both programs we have little overlap. Right now he has two acceptances, Mount Sinai and WashU, and he's leaning towards Mount Sinai in NYC. Me on the other hand, I have acceptances from Pitt (he was rejected) and UVA (he's waitlisted) and recently interviewed at Johns Hopkins, UM Baltimore, and Emory. So it's likely that I'm going to a Baltimore school. If worse comes to worst, we'll do long distance between NYC and Baltimore, but that sounds like a huge pain to deal with for 5-6 years of grad school. So here's my question:

Is it unreasonable to withdraw all my applications and apply to more NYC schools next cycle? Right now I'm a post-bacc at the FDA in Maryland so theoretically I could continue there for another year. I'm hesitant though because I spent so much time and money on this application cycle, and an offer from JHU is really hard to pass up. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Amtrak from Baltimore to NYC is not that bad of a ride, so I am not sure that you would necessarily be unable to work things out while attending separate programs. You have an amazing opportunity that, in my opinion, shouldn't be given up over a 3.5 hour train ride.

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I think there are some things you have to consider. How stable is your relationship? Is marriage (or a longterm commitment you're into) on the horizon, have you discussed where you would like things to go or are you just trying to see how it works out? I would highly suggest having a serious conversation with your boyfriend about what a long distance relationship would mean (it sounds like you may have) and if you think your relationship could withstand that space. 

Additionally, you have to ask yourself if you will feel any resentment after pushing back your plans a year while your boyfriend carries on with the plan as expected. There is always the chance that you will not get acceptances to New York schools next cycle, which I'm sure would be a very uncomfortable situation to be in.

I would say, of course you could turn down your acceptances and apply again next year. Another year at the FDA could be great experience and could make you an even better candidate. However, almost nothing is guaranteed in this application process so I think you have to make sure you are going to be content with all possible outcomes.

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As others said, you and your SO need to decide what is important for the two of you in the future. What would you want to prioritize? There's no right or wrong answer, as long as you are both on the same page!

I've seen many long distance grad couples work out wonderfully and I've seen many couples fall apart. And sometimes when one partner moves to be with another, it works out really well but in other cases, one does feel resentful of the other and it doesn't work out. So I hope the two of you are able to have an honest talk with each other.

I think you will have to rank these three things in order of priority:
- Living in the same city
- Being at the school you are the most excited about
- Your SO being at the school they are the most excited about

Some couples choose to prioritize being in the same place (or as close as possible) even if it means one or both of you don't go to your first choice school. You say that you got into UVa but your partner is waitlisted. Does UVa know about your two body problem? If not, letting them know at this stage could help your partner get off the waitlist, especially if UVa is interested in getting you to attend. 

Other couples choose to prioritize one person's top choice over another's. Some choose which person based on their future plans or interests (i.e. one partner may be more interested in academia than another). Or, they might choose to go to the city/school that is the best overall opportunity for the two of them combined. You're considering applying to NYC schools but has your partner considered applying to Baltimore schools next year?

And finally, other couples decide that their relationship will work out best if each person is able to pursue the best path forward for themselves. Although my experience is very limited (maybe only know about a dozen couples or so who are/were both in academia), for my friends, this option seems to work the best for their relationship. That is, the relationships where one person compromises their career for another do not seem to work out as often as the ones where both forge their own paths. Baltimore to NYC is actually much closer than a lot of the other long distance academic couples I know. I know of three couples that are/were continents apart! 

Just to reiterate: I don't think there is one right answer that will work for everyone. I hope that by providing some example success stories, you can decide what will work best for you :)

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Since others have given the standard, neutral "you should seriously weigh what's most important to you" type answer, I'll give my unvarnished, unmeasured advice/opinion. So fair warning.

ABSOLUTELY DO NOT WITHDRAW YOUR APPLICATIONS TO BE NEAR YOUR BF. 

This happens to so many people. It happens in school situations (undergrad, grad school, med school, residency). It happens in jobs. It happens just in picking a place to live. It rarely works out well, and it's rarely worth it. I mean it. I can't tell you how many crying friends I had in college who wasted their fun years of undergrad pining over a high school bf hundreds of miles away they only saw during winter break. My best friend from high school did not even go to college because she chose to move in with her bf in another state instead. IMO this tends to be a very gendered conversation in terms of who moves for who in hetero relationships, but I don't wanna assume. And tbh I'd give the same advice to anyone in any kind of a relationship. I have middle aged friends who tell me their greatest regret was moving for their bf/gf/husband's/wife's school/job/whatever and putting their lives on the backburner. Even when things work out perfectly, (and they rarely do) there's almost always resentment and scorekeeping that eats away at both partners over time. Cuz one person feels like they've sacrificed. They gave up a network or support circle or career plan or whatever. Like, at this point, I don't even advise married people to move with their spouses if it's something temporary. Like, if Spouse X has to move across country for work for a year? Stay home! Say I'll see you in a year!

In this case, for an opportunity like this, especially when none of us knows what grant funding our competition for seats will looks like next year (especially given the political climate) you'd be taking a huge gamble. I think it's a mistake.

I kinda don't have an upside to this though, because I also don't think long-distance relationships are a great setup either. When they work, it's because they're temporary, and the people in the relationship already had a good foundation before moving apart. That is the case for you and your bf, OP! But...they're an awful lot of work. Like, expensive (travel), time consuming (travel), emotionally exhausting (loneliness, paranoia, being unable to do typical couple things) work. And you'd be doing it for half a decade, with both of you in vibrant cities, surrounded by interesting, engaging colleagues, at a formative time in your lives. My advice to everyone who has ever asked or will ever ask about long-distance relationships is to not. Relationships are tough already. It's just easier to be with somebody you're physically near. That's not to say I don't see people making it work every day! It's very possible! But it will be a sacrifice, and you should go in knowing that.

In any case, don't withdraw your applications. I'd try that 3 1/2 train ride and Skype before I even considered it. (Jk, I'd NEVER consider it)

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I agree with someone upthread who suggested you have your BF contact UVA to say his GF has been accepted to grad school there, and that if he were also accepted, you'd both commit to attend. You should do likewise with your dept. 

I have a friend and his GF who both applied to med schools last cycle. They had an overlapping list but didn't get accepted to a single common school. He was rejected (not waitlisted...he didn't even originally get an interview) at one that she was accepted to and wanted to attend (Tulane), and they both wrote to the admissions committee. He soon got an offer and they're now attending together. I think it's worth writing emails and seeing if it goes your way. Best of luck to you.

 

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On 2/17/2017 at 9:15 AM, alpraz said:

Amtrak from Baltimore to NYC is not that bad of a ride, so I am not sure that you would necessarily be unable to work things out while attending separate programs. You have an amazing opportunity that, in my opinion, shouldn't be given up over a 3.5 hour train ride.

I've looked into the train, it seems like a really viable option. $$ might be a problem, but I think if we were to plan it out in advance then our stipends should cover it. Thanks.

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On 2/17/2017 at 11:41 AM, TakeruK said:

As others said, you and your SO need to decide what is important for the two of you in the future. What would you want to prioritize? There's no right or wrong answer, as long as you are both on the same page!

I've seen many long distance grad couples work out wonderfully and I've seen many couples fall apart. And sometimes when one partner moves to be with another, it works out really well but in other cases, one does feel resentful of the other and it doesn't work out. So I hope the two of you are able to have an honest talk with each other.

I think you will have to rank these three things in order of priority:
- Living in the same city
- Being at the school you are the most excited about
- Your SO being at the school they are the most excited about

 

Thanks for your response. I think you're right about needing to establish our priorities...bf and I have been talking about that a lot lately. I guess I'm just trying to come to terms with the possibility of taking the train every weekend so we could both go to the best schools. Although I would be okay with us going to UVA together, I worry that we might start resenting each other because we both preferred other schools.

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Also like... assuming an MD/PhD is a 5-6 year process is a generous estimation, you'll be lucky if it's under 7-8 years.

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2 hours ago, Josie817 said:

Thanks for your response. I think you're right about needing to establish our priorities...bf and I have been talking about that a lot lately. I guess I'm just trying to come to terms with the possibility of taking the train every weekend so we could both go to the best schools. Although I would be okay with us going to UVA together, I worry that we might start resenting each other because we both preferred other schools.

I would just like to clarify if you would be the only one taking the train. My relationship was long distance for ~6 months and we took turns visiting each other almost every weekend via train, which was occasionally annoying but also fair.

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5 hours ago, Epigenetics said:

Also like... assuming an MD/PhD is a 5-6 year process is a generous estimation, you'll be lucky if it's under 7-8 years.

I meant 5-6 years for me to get my PhD, once I graduate I would try finding a post doc near him because his program is longer.

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4 hours ago, rockyMicrobe said:

I would just like to clarify if you would be the only one taking the train. My relationship was long distance for ~6 months and we took turns visiting each other almost every weekend via train, which was occasionally annoying but also fair.

We would alternate who's traveling each weekend. I should have clarified.

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Even if you plan on marrying them, my advice would be to go where YOU feel that YOU will do best as a med and graduate student. Everyone that I know who moved to a place for their significant other and started a grad program there is not happy with their choice.

While my situation is a little different (my fiance stayed back for an awesome job rather than grad school), we are prioritizing our careers now so that we are better suited to end up in the same city one day. We've been long distance nearly 5 years. You can do it, and by saving well, we see each other several times a year for at least a week. This will be harder for your during med classes, but during the PhD portion, so long as you put in hard work, you can get away with some 3-day weekends.

For things that you can do to help cope with the distance, check out my post on this thread, and feel free to message me as well: 

 

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3 hours ago, biotechie said:

Even if you plan on marrying them, my advice would be to go where YOU feel that YOU will do best as a med and graduate student. Everyone that I know who moved to a place for their significant other and started a grad program there is not happy with their choice.

While my situation is a little different (my fiance stayed back for an awesome job rather than grad school), we are prioritizing our careers now so that we are better suited to end up in the same city one day. We've been long distance nearly 5 years. You can do it, and by saving well, we see each other several times a year for at least a week. This will be harder for your during med classes, but during the PhD portion, so long as you put in hard work, you can get away with some 3-day weekends.

For things that you can do to help cope with the distance, check out my post on this thread, and feel free to message me as well: 

 

Saw your original post which is so sweet. I'm also going to take an apart relationship with my girlfriend since both of us are in the same field (biology, same as you), but the programs we got accepted, which include both of our top choices, literally have no overlap. Not even one close to another.

As you did, we decided to prioritize our career, well, since there is no other choice. But I really hope we can work this out like you two did. Thank you for sharing your encouraging story! Best wishes for both of you. :P

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On 2/20/2017 at 7:15 AM, biotechie said:

Even if you plan on marrying them, my advice would be to go where YOU feel that YOU will do best as a med and graduate student. Everyone that I know who moved to a place for their significant other and started a grad program there is not happy with their choice.

While my situation is a little different (my fiance stayed back for an awesome job rather than grad school), we are prioritizing our careers now so that we are better suited to end up in the same city one day. We've been long distance nearly 5 years. You can do it, and by saving well, we see each other several times a year for at least a week. This will be harder for your during med classes, but during the PhD portion, so long as you put in hard work, you can get away with some 3-day weekends.

For things that you can do to help cope with the distance, check out my post on this thread, and feel free to message me as well: 

 

That's really inspiring, thanks for your post. You were able to make it work and you guys are even further apart!

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On 2/20/2017 at 11:22 AM, desmond.bo said:

Saw your original post which is so sweet. I'm also going to take an apart relationship with my girlfriend since both of us are in the same field (biology, same as you), but the programs we got accepted, which include both of our top choices, literally have no overlap. Not even one close to another.

As you did, we decided to prioritize our career, well, since there is no other choice. But I really hope we can work this out like you two did. Thank you for sharing your encouraging story! Best wishes for both of you. :P

Good luck, I hope it all works out.

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