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I'm hoping to start a PhD, I had been planning to do application this year and start next year but I've now been laid off with no real prospects of getting more work soon.

Wondering with all the travel bans and people leaving cities if previously filled places might become available this year in the US? Obviously universities are in disarray so don't want to bother them at this time.

Is anybody aware what happens when people pull out of programs or defer?

I am in NYC and hoping to start a programme in CS, or statistics in NYC or the east coast anyway, my partner works in the city too so I can't go too far. Just wondering if there's any scope to start this year as now I have no work. Any ideas if this is feasible? If I'm already living here so I'm able to attend with very little hindrance compared to those in other parts of US or coming from an international location. Better to fill a place then let it go to waste?

Has anyone one some insight in to what happens in exceptional times such as these?

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  • As these are exceptional times it is difficult to guess what any institution might do. You could ask admissions... – Solar Mike Mar 25 '20 at 6:37
  • Rather than ask admissions (there is usually no "admissions office" for grad students, only a committee), I'd suggest asking whoever professor you are the most familiar with or whose field is closest to you. That professor will probably relay your question to the grad student committee themselves (unless they are on said committee already). – darij grinberg Mar 25 '20 at 18:03
  • Are you willing to pay tuition or do you need to be funded? – Alexander Woo Mar 25 '20 at 18:13
  • You're still looking at starting in six months, at which point the economic situation will look very different (hopefully, in recovery). It doesn't seem like starting a CS program in the fall is a good fix for being out of work for the next two or three months. – Azor Ahai -him- Mar 26 '20 at 15:12
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Wondering with all the travel bans and people leaving cities if previously filled places might become available this year in the US? Obviously universities are in disarray so don't want to bother them at this time....Just wondering if there's any scope to start this year as now I have no work. Any ideas if this is feasible?

It sounds very unlikely. It is possible previous filled positions will not get filled -- that part is true (though I'm not sure I expect a very large effect here, as many will just join a program of their choice anyway despite not being able to visit). But they would not give the slot to some new person who did not apply earlier on the normal timeline.

Actually, PhD slots are always under or over filled from one year to the next -- it's expected. For example, a program might admit 100 students, but anywhere from 25 to 50 might actually join, which is a big difference. The way they compensate for this is by simply admitting a smaller or larger number of students the next year -- not by trying to fill the slots in the same year.

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  • Thanks for the insight, so my only real choice is to make aim for a fall start in 2021? as I said I'm really hoping to be in NYC or not more than a few hours travel cheaply from the city so I can see my partner at least 2 or 3 times per month. – user24907 Mar 25 '20 at 3:32
  • I think the answer makes a rather broad generalization. It's true that most top programs have already filled their classes for the fall, but there are many graduate programs (including the one in my department) that would still consider an application that came in now. There are likely to be quite a few disruptions that cause students (especially international students) to not be able to start their graduate studies in the fall, and this will inevitably mean that some spots are unfilled. – Brian Borchers Mar 25 '20 at 4:49
  • Interesting, as you said each case is different. I'm sure the admin office may be too busy to give much thought to bending rules as of now, so typically who do you think would be the best option to reaching out to if I'm hoping to get the usual protocol ignored? head of department or a supervisor who is seeing a lack of labor on the horizon? I guess it would be hard for me to discern which faculty members are in need and which are not. – user24907 Mar 25 '20 at 4:57
  • @user24907 I agree with Brian about some things I didn't mention. Just reach out to a professor you are interested in (regardless of need), and the admissions, and ask to apply late. It is most likely they will say "apply next year" but as Brian says there is a chance that the program will accept your application. Having your professor or rec letter writer reach out on your behalf would be a good alternative. Regardless, the main thing is you need to be prepared with all the components of an application even though you aren't applying on the normal timeline. – 6005 Mar 25 '20 at 12:54

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