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I am an international student currently working in my home country - India. I got admitted for a fully-funded PhD program in the US. Although I was very confident about doing a PhD when I applied for it, my interest has decreased over time by staying in an industry job, and now I no longer feel like doing a PhD. Can I tell the university a week before the joining date that I am no longer interested in doing PhD and won't be joining as I wish to stay in the industry and PhD doesn't interest me anymore? What will be the consequences for me as an International Student?

I know this sounds very unprofessional, but I am a perplexed individual who is not sure about his future, who once thought doing a PhD would be good but now thinks he is not a good candidate for it.

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  • Where is the job located? US or India? Where are you currently located (i.e. right this minute), in India or US?
    – Daniel K
    Oct 12, 2021 at 22:38
  • @DanielK The job was in India. I have joined my PhD program in January this year.
    – Krishh
    Mar 15, 2022 at 5:57

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In almost all cases the answer would be yes. You will cause a bit of disruption, perhaps, but for most programs it would be minor. If there are any contractual obligations you have to ask to be released, but that would be unusual unless you have already been given some benefits.

If the program is a large one, as many are, the disruption to the program would be minimal unless you were slotted in to some vital position in a lab for which a replacement needs to be found. This is also pretty unlikely.

Send a polite letter.

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Yes. They may not be happy with your decision and it's possible you may regret it later, but yes, you can decline at the last minute here in the US. They can't force you to do the PhD if you've decided you don't want to do it.

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I cannot speak to potential immigration issues but yes, absolutely you should do this. As long as you clearly communicate your intentions, and perhaps your reasoning, to your would-be department, there is no issue and they will probably be grateful. If you are not interested in doing a PhD then, trust me, both they and you will be much better off if you go your separate ways. Dealing with burned out students who no longer wish to be there is one of the hardest issues any department with a PhD program has to confront.

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Just an alternative answer here. You may be able to defer your acceptance which basically means that you let the department know that you have been employed and would like to delay your entrance to the program. This changes from university to university so make sure to ask. I think this choice lets you have enough flexibility since you may be able to enter the program in a year if you choose to.

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    True, defer, if you can. They may not want to, but it'd not be out of malice to you, just about their own planning. No point in cutting off that possibility, though, I think, at this point in your life. You may yet change your mind, etc. This choice is a much bigger point for your own life than for the dept that you have the PhD offer from. Be polite. Oct 12, 2021 at 21:35
  • This is probably unlikely though, as good candidates for deferrals are unavoidable life situations. They don't want to hold you a spot if you're just going to in a year say "nah I like my job fine." If it's a short-term job, explain that. Oct 12, 2021 at 21:36
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    @AzorAhai-him-... though, when I myself am looking at grad school applications, people who've already been through "second thoughts" and consideration of alternatives ... if/when they do decide to go the grad school route... have much clearer heads about many aspects of the thing. When people ask me for deferrals, I actually do not inquire too much about their reasons... which may be self-deceptions, anyway! 22-year-olds. :) Oct 12, 2021 at 22:02
  • FYI all...I finally joined the PhD program in January. Don't regret it as of now, the research group I am in is great too.
    – Krishh
    Mar 15, 2022 at 5:54

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