• I have a full ride for a grad program at a good school

  • I've recently gone through an awful breakup with a girlfriend of 7 years

  • I now want to take an extra year before going to school, for many reasons. I could explain them to you all here, but that seems beside the point; assume they are compelling enough.

  • In my head, my justification sounded very legitimate and serious (the tale involves depression and hospitalization, an abrupt change of living situation, etc., all just before enrollment)

  • Now, typing out an email to the department, I feel totally immature. I try to word it more professionally, which only makes it look like I'm trying to be vague about my immaturity, which perhaps sounds even more immature.

How can I talk about personal relationship issues to people who it matters to, but for professional reasons, and not feel like I've tainted my name at the school?

  • 3
    I guess I'm a bit confused. Won't you enroll in the fall? How do you know you will be depressed and hospitalized between now and then? Jun 14, 2018 at 22:20

2 Answers 2


You don't need to give them all the details. Say "Some personal issues have come up, and I'd like to know how viable an option it would be to defer beginning my program". If they want more details, they'll ask for them.

  • 1
    Indeed they have, hence my question Jun 14, 2018 at 22:03
  • 2
    You probably should explain this is the second email on the topic as part of your question
    – Dawn
    Jun 14, 2018 at 22:52

Essentially I don’t think this will succeed.

The deferment option at many schools is intended to allow students the opportunity to take part in an experience they would not otherwise be able or likely to pursue, such as a Rhodes or Marshall fellowship. Alternatively, the use of unexpected, serious illnesses that would prevent enrollment might be granted a waiver. Changes in relationship status do not normally clear such a bar. The fact that you are struggling to explain it gives you a good indication of how it will likely be received by the admissions committee.

  • Alright, well, if deferral is not an option I may have to just rescind the acceptance... I've already brought it up and am in conversation with someone from the school. I just am worried that because I'm talking about a relationship issue at all, no one will respect the decision. I don't want to come off as immature or naive; my field is quite small. It's a shame that relationship issues have that stigma. Jun 14, 2018 at 23:24
  • @GeoffreyBrent Yes, though it is the other party in my relationship, not me. That is why I fear judgement. If it was my spouse, people would understand, but that is not the case. Jun 15, 2018 at 0:23
  • @Anonymous Ah, right - you may want to clarify that in your question.
    – G_B
    Jun 15, 2018 at 0:24
  • Sounds to me like the problem isn't a relationship status change per se, but the mental health problems that it caused. If someone needed cancer treatment they wouldn't ask for a deferral due to smoking. There's good reasons people have difficulty explaining mental illness, such as lack of information and stigma. Jun 16, 2018 at 3:57

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