Let’s say person A has been accepted to a Ph.D. program at Harvard, MIT and Princeton. In addition to this, he has been accepted for a one-year Master’s Degree at Oxford University. If he decides to pursue the Master’s Degree because he wants to spend a year abroad in Europe, can he reapply to the Ph.D. programs he turned down?

How would an admissions committee react to this, given that the very same applicant applies one year after having been accepted, but didn’t accept the original admissions offer?

Note, that there are very similar question on stackexchange already. But they didn't ask for the situation I have described above.

  • How an admissions committee would react would depend heavily on how the applicant explains the situation in their statement. "In the middle of his studies" suggests dropping out from the master's - or are you saying the applicant will be completing the masters and thus applying to the PhD? It will also further depend on how the reference letters speak of this, how the person actually performed during the masters, and whether or not the rest of the application improved or not (a year at a top institution with nothing to speak of or show for it isn't a great sign). Too many factors to predict.
    – BrianH
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 17:49
  • Yes, he would be completing his masters by the start of the PhD. I just thought that they might be offended that he rejected their admission offer and reapplies right during the next year. Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 17:59
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    I've never been on an admissions committee, but my guess is that they are professionals who do not get offended because someone accepted another competitive offer. That said, I view admissions to top tier schools as stochastic after the first few round of cutoffs, i.e. even excellent students must be turned down simply because of the number of applicants. If this student's top choice really is one of H/M/P, I personally would just accept rather than risk re-applying. You can always live abroad in other ways—internships, postdocs, jobs, etc.—if you prioritize it.
    – jds
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 18:06
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    Is this all hypothetical, because you are currently agonizing about whether to attend one of the U.S. schools vs. take the offer from Oxford? Or are you currently in fact halfway through the Oxford program? Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 13:59
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    @aparente001 This is all hypothetical Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 21:19

1 Answer 1


I think you should ask the three schools in the U.S. that offered you a spot. But don't tell them the reason you shared with us for why you want to go to Oxford for a master's. Just say it's an exciting opportunity.

Ask whether you can defer your admission for a year or whether you should reapply. If they say you should reapply, then do so.

  • Good point on asking for a deferral of admission. Whether they will grant it will depend a lot on the program, but for a strong applicant (for example, someone good enough to be accepted to Harvard, MIT, Princeton and Oxford) they may consider it.
    – R.M.
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 18:06

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