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I looked online and saw one question that was similar, but it seemed like this question was for undergraduate admissions. Another similar question here on academia.stackexchange addressed differing the Ph.D. admission to reapply elsewhere, but my understanding of deferral, based on discussion with faculty and graduate students, is that you are still committed to that school but are just taking a year off before you begin the program. Also, I have concerns with the possible issues highlighted by aeismail that may arise from deferring as an attempt to apply to other schools. In that respect, my question is a slightly different in that it involves actually rejecting a school's offer.

I am currently in a situation where it looks like I got rejected from my first choice Ph.D. program, but got interviews at some of my later choice programs.

I believe my chances for my first choice Ph.D. program will be higher in the next upcoming application cycle due to a number of additional research experience and presentations.

In other words, my situations is as follows;

  1. I wish to go to Uni A, but got rejected.
  2. I received interviews by Uni B & C,
  3. I believe I will have a better shot at Uni A the next cycle,
  4. I reject offers (assuming I receive them) from Uni B & C for this cycle,
  5. I reapply to Uni A, B, & C the next cycle,
  6. I will attend B or C if I get rejected from A once again,

Although reapplying to Uni A wouldn't be uncommon, would it be considered rude to reject offers from B & C and then reapply the next cycle? And how might one approach this so that it's not blatantly obvious that I rejected the offer because I wanted to go to Uni A and I am reapplying with the intention that they are, more or less, 'safety' options? I would imagine that I could mention that my current research interests do not line up and this could be a reason for rejecting the current cycle, but I was curious as to how others may perceive this.

*I would still be very happy to go to Uni B or C and work with their faculty, it's more so that I believe I would later regret not having reapplied to Uni A when my application will be much stronger.

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    What reason will you give B/C for refusing their offer? If they will really put an eye on you in the first round, when you reject them, they will probably prefer another, equally qualified candidate for the second. It might not matter if you are well above the cut-off, but if you are not, you may not get a repeat chance. – Captain Emacs Jan 16 '17 at 0:19
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It is possible you don't need to reapply to B and C. Here was my experience:

  1. Applied to uni A and B, got offers from both
  2. Accepted offer from B. Rejected offer from A.
  3. Attended B for one year, decided to transfer/start over at A
  4. Contacted uni A. They were happy to accept me based on the previous application. I didn't even have to reapply, they simply considered it deferred matriculation.

I don't know how typical this is, but it may be something to discreetly look into. Maybe you know an administrator or faculty member at B or C that could give you the inside scoop.

  • As far as I know transfer between grad school is pretty rare unless there's some pretty compelling reasons for doing so. – Drecate Jan 16 '17 at 20:11
  • I wasn't suggesting the OP transfer. Only suggesting he/she might not need to apply twice to the same program. However, I personally know three other people who transferred between grad schools, so at least in my field, it is not very rare. – asstprof Jan 16 '17 at 20:19

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