I've got a fully funded PhD offer from a US university. The department is open to deferral without any reason.

I want to go to work for one year before my PhD. If I feel satisfied with the job, I may decline the PhD offer and stay in the industry. Is this common in the US?

My concern is (1) if I decide to drop out one year later, my advisor may not have enough time to admit new students. This may negatively impact her tenure. (2) My break of offer may cause the department doesn't consider students from my country/undergrad school.

  • 1
    They're not going to come and take your liver if you drop out, so what are you concerned about? I.e. burning bridges, reapplying later? Commented Apr 2, 2021 at 20:14
  • 3
    @AzorAhai-him-, kidneys, though, have market value, so ...
    – Buffy
    Commented Apr 2, 2021 at 20:15
  • 1
    Assume that the university has a backup plan, so that your turning it down will have minimal negative impact on them. If they offer a deferral, then they have a flexible plan.
    – Buffy
    Commented Apr 2, 2021 at 20:25
  • @AzorAhai-him- I just added my concern in my question, thanks for asking about it.
    – KKKcat
    Commented Apr 2, 2021 at 20:29

1 Answer 1


I think this is fine in almost every case. If it weren't they would have you sign some legal document, but it is hard to see that happening. They might not be terrifically happy with you, but that would pass.

In a situation in which considerable university funds had to be spent (not just reserved) for you there might be complications, but then, any conditions would be clearly spelled out in advance.

I wouldn't worry about it unless something is said or implied in anything you sign.

Ethically, though, you should let them know as early as possible if you won't be taking it up later. But you want to keep your options open, also.

Generally speaking, though, in a situation like this, worry about your own best interests and assume that the other party is competent to worry about theirs. And since this is a friendly, rather than adversarial, situation, it will work out ok.

  • I like this answer, but there is a fine line to walk. Aggressively looking after (only) one's own affairs inevitably leads to retaliation from any competent adversary, which can drag down the common mode of interaction for everyone to something less trusting and less optimistic. I've heard from the workplace stack exchange that both employers and employees commonly take advantage of each other to a far greater extend in some developing countries, (e.g if employees routinely back out of jobs they've already committed to, then companies might retaliate in some way to discourage the behavior.)
    – jpaugh
    Commented Apr 2, 2021 at 20:48

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