YIKES! I got admitted, but I can’t go yet.

Some of you are coming in with a good problem to have: you’ve been accepted into graduate school. Excellent! But let’s suppose you need either an extension or a deferral.

In the case of an extension, you’re trying to buy a little time. Suppose you’ve applied to six graduate programs and you’ve been accepted into two of them, but one of them gave you a deadline to reply that is before you’ll hear from the other four –what can you do?

Write a letter!
You’ll have to request an extension. Here’s how to construct it.

First open with a buffer, or a statement that is pleasant, honest, and noncontroversial.     
              Example: I sincerely appreciate being accepted into your excellent graduate
                             school for <name of degree>.

Next, tactfully and positively explain the circumstances that have necessitated that you ask for an extension. A good way to approach this is to mention your need to have additional time to make sure you are able to arrange your finances or work out the details of moving. Of course, it’s important to be honest, but if you write that you are asking for an extension because the school is really not your first choice, you’re probably not going to be granted one. Think of this situation from your audience’s point of view: it’s costly for them to wait for you. If they get the sense that you’re not that interested, it’s better for them to turn you down and offer your place to someone on their waiting list.

              Example: Because I have a number of financial and logistical details to work out to
                             make this decision well, I would appreciate your giving me until <date>.
                             I remain extremely  interested in attending your school and recognize you
                             have others on your waiting list. I do not wish to inconvenience you;
                             however, I want to be able to make a strong contribution
                             to your graduate program, and this requires working out
                             additional details.

In the closing, mention your willingness to compromise. Also, ask for a decision. Be cordial and sincere.

             Example: If you need my decision immediately, I will do my best to accommodate
                            your request. However, if you can allow me the extra time to address my
                            financial and logistical concerns, I’d be extremely grateful. Please let me
                            know of your decision. I appreciate your time and consideration.

In the case of a deferral, you’re trying to buy a lot of time, and so you’ll need to have a more completely developed explanation. Each school and program varies, but for the most part, they are likely to look less favorably on deferrals, UNLESS YOU CAN SHOW HOW IT BENEFITS THEM! This is the key. If you can specifically state how the deferral will make you a stronger student when you attend, your postponement becomes a plus to the school. This is the case if your deferral is requested because of research considerations or additional experiences you are having that are related to your field. Obtaining a deferral because you want to go backpacking through Europe to discover yourself is as likely as having Snooki turn up on “Meet the Press.”

And by the way, deferrals from a master’s program into a doctorate are more common than from an undergraduate into a master’s. The reason is because many who are involved in post-graduate studies have research and grant obligations that may spill over into another academic calendar year. This untidiness is part of the landscape of academia and may work in your favor.  

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