Currently, I am a history student (MA) from Europe. I plan to pursue further education in Asia.

Initially, I applied to university X (a 2-year research program (MA) with full funding). I also applied for a 1-year language acquisition program (also with full funding). I was shortlisted by uni X and accepted for the language program. I, then, wanted to withdraw from the uni x's shortlist, but my potential supervisor encouraged me to stay on the list and wait for a final decision.

However, after some thinking I realised that I look out to take that language program for academic (learn an extra language), personal (get some time off) and financial reasons (save some money)

My question is the following: do I, as a (potential) admitted student, have certain bargaining power to delay my possible admission for a year for example?

I'm not a potential employee, post-doc or whatsoever. I'm just a potential research student and I'm definitely not the only candidate on the waiting list

Which points do I have to consider prior to send an e-mail to uni X when dealing with such an issue?


  • 10
    This is called "deferring enrollment" or "deferring admission", and just ask them what their policy is. No need to worry about bargaining power yet, when they may have a standard policy that allows deferment.
    – ff524
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 7:41
  • Is the language you'll acquire from the 1-year language acquisition program the same as the local language Uni X is using?
    – Nobody
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 7:49
  • - Thanks for the comments. I will look for any rules regarding "deferring enrollment" - The medium at Uni X is English; the language I will learn is Chinese, but it will be certainly a plus for research
    – user41880
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 9:21
  • it will be certainly a plus for research Then mentioning the language program in your e-mail will help you to get the deferring enrollment.
    – Nobody
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 9:27
  • 1
    I have no idea about what you do, or what you know, but do you think you can learn enough Chinese in one year to be useful in your research?
    – Davidmh
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 16:08

4 Answers 4


delay my possible admission for a year

In theory, yes, you can delay the admission for up to a year but you need to know the rules.

As mentioned in the comments, this is called deferring. Each university/institute has certain rules regarding the deferment. At some places, you may not be able to defer the offer so long. While others, which allow the deferments for up to a term or two, it might be easier to delay for one semester/term (4 to 6 months) by providing a reasonable excuse. However, this can be extended for one more term (3 to 6 months) but in special cases and may require the agreement of the prospective supervisor, HoD etc.

Which points do I have to consider prior to send an e-mail to uni X when dealing with such an issue?

Try to know their rules through the website or by email.

See what is the maximum period (P) they can allow you? 4+3=7 or 6+6=12 or ...

Does (P) satisfy you?

If yes, then what would be the special conditions for the extension?

Would you be able to manage to deal with those special conditions?

  • 4
    "In general, you can easily delay for one semester/term" Note that this is definitely university / country specific. Here in Switzerland you may easily be out when you try to defer by more than one or two months (we hire students usually for specific grants / projects, and those cannot easily be delayed by half a year or a year).
    – xLeitix
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 10:56

If you propose to start the program at one of the standard entry times, such as the beginning of the first semester one year from now, then such a delay is a common request and is often granted. The term is "deferment". Typical reasons include misalignment of the academic calendars between countries, military service, and medical problems.

From the point of view of the institution, by granting a deferment they lose a small amount of predictability in filling their class this year and gain a similar amount of predictability in filling the next class. If they received too many acceptances of their admission offers this year, then you might be doing them a favor by deferring.

Game-theoretically you lose nothing, and might gain something, by asking about the possibility of deferment before making a final decision.

The school may require an enrollment deposit now to reduce the possibility that you apply elsewhere in the deferment year. It might provide them with some (very slight) further reassurance if you state that that you don't intend to apply for admission to other programs, or provide reasons that make it clear you do want to attend their program one year from the original date.


The funding is probably tied up in some project's results, if you don't show up to do the work on time it is very likely that it will be given to somebody else. You can still attend, sure; but no funding.


Which points do I have to consider prior to send an e-mail to uni X when dealing with such an issue?

If possible, it can be useful to try to phrase things in terms of their interests and goals, rather than just yours. For example, in U.S. mathematics departments my impression is that it's easy to get a deferral to do something that will make you a better-prepared or more successful graduate student, such as spending a year on Part III of the Tripos in Cambridge, while it can be harder to get a deferral for personal reasons (volunteering, taking time off, earning money, pursuing other interests, etc.). You might still get one, or you might not, in which case you would need to apply again next year and risk not getting in.

In particular:

  1. If spending a year studying Chinese would provide important preparation for your MA at University X, you should emphasize this. They might prefer the deferral, actually, if insufficient Chinese language skills was one reason you are on the waiting list.

  2. If it is not crucial for the MA but important for related professional goals (such as your future PhD project), that's also worth mentioning.

Of course all this depends on how the department handles deferrals. Whether a deferral would even make sense depends a lot on the circumstances, but it can't hurt to ask.

  • "You might still get one, but you might be told you would need to apply again next year and risk not getting in." That sounds pretty odd to me. How is that different from not getting a deferral and just being told to cancel and apply again when you have actually time to start the programme?
    – xLeitix
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 8:28
  • @xLeitix: That's when I mean (I'll edit to clarify). Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 12:16

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