Getting accepted to graduate school is exciting. If you’re still waiting to hear back from other schools, it can also add a lot of pressure to an already stressful situation. Should you take the acceptance and run, even if it’s not from your top choice school, or should you hold out for your dream school? Can you request a deferral? If you already got a deferral, can you request a time extension while you wait for other responses?
Are you thinking of requesting a deferral?
You may need to respond to schools before receiving all of your admissions decisions, which can quickly become complicated. You will need to proceed with caution to avoid burning a bridge. This is particularly true if a school has already given you a deferral.
In this edition of our Ask The Art of Applying® series, we answer a question from our client-only Q&A Vault that explores what to do in this situation. The client who submitted the question was looking for advice about asking for an extension from a school that had already granted him a deferral.
Should I ask for an extension after already getting a deferral?
Here is the client’s question in full along with some more context about their situation:
“Should I answer yes to [The University of Chicago] Harris [School of Public Policy] and then if I get admitted to the Harvard Kennedy School or Princeton, tell Harris that I’m not going to actually go? Or should I ask for an extension of the deadline for April or a different date? My situation is the following: I was admitted last year to enroll this fall in the MPP program at Harris…I was also waitlisted at the Harvard Kennedy School and told that I needed more work experience. I asked Harris for the deferral and they granted it [for one year]. Now [Harris] contacted me and gave me until the middle of February [to decide]…This creates a problem for me because I’m going to reapply to the Harvard Kennedy School and to Princeton and both give admissions results in mid-March.”
Needless to say, this client’s situation is tricky. Unfortunately, the decision timelines for their top-choice schools clash with their deadline to respond to Harris. While Harris might not be their top choice, the client still needs to protect their relationship with the admissions department in case things don’t work out with Harvard or Princeton.
Ask for an extension of the deferral.
Virginia, one of our consultants who attended Harris chimed in with some advice. She said, “My advice is to ask Harris for an extension of the deferral deadline. No matter how you do it, you should definitely start there, be upfront. If you get this [deferral], then that may solve all of your problems. It wouldn’t hurt to give them a call and just ask if a deferral extension deadline is feasible. Usually, we say it’s best to email, but in your case, you’ve probably actually spoken on the phone with some people from admissions over the last year. If you built up that relationship or any kind of rapport, it’s best to just jump on the phone here. Once you get [an answer] from them, you could reevaluate your situation.”
Virginia raises a good point because this client already has an existing relationship with Harris. Remember that schools are not required to grant deferrals, so, in this case Harris has done the client a favor by granting the deferral and giving them one year to decide. Picking up the phone and talking with admissions directly honors the dynamic and rapport the client already has.
Don’t commit to attend, if you are not planning on attending.
To answer the client’s question about what reason to give, our consultant weighed in with the following advice, “As far as reasons go, you would need to brainstorm what other reasons besides waiting for other admissions decisions you have…Committing to attend Harris, and then not going is not professional.”
Think through your options.
Our other consultant, Adam, acknowledged that this is a challenging situation. Letting go of an acceptance while holding out for a decision that might not go your way is nerve-wracking. However, our consultant suggested that it’s also important to weigh what you might gain by choosing a school that isn’t necessarily your top choice.
Virginia said, “I was in a similar situation when I was going through the MPP application process. I didn’t get into my top choice program and I considered doing what you’re describing, I ultimately came to Harris and I checked a few things off my list that I could not check off had I held off to retry at my top choice schools. For example, I became a homeowner!”
Our consultant raises an important point: choosing the school you attend is rarely a straightforward choice. While one school might be your top choice, it will likely have benefits that your top choice does not. When making a final decision, it is essential to consider all of your options. Our team is here to help when you are ready for an expert to weigh in on this decision.
Figuring out where to attend grad school is always complicated. Juggling communications and deadlines with multiple schools, like this client, adds another layer of complexity. If you are in a similar situation, remember to be respectful and forthright, especially if a school has already granted you a deferral.
Of course, as our consultant pointed out, it’s also worth considering every aspect of the school that you choose. Even if a school might seem perfect on paper, it still has pros and cons like any other decision. Be sure to consider your choice in its entirety.
If you are thinking about going to graduate school or, like this client, you need some help thinking through your admissions decisions—we can help! Book a Quick Call with our team, and we can talk through your questions.