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My significant other and I finish our master degrees at the same time and thus we are applying for PhD programmes at the same time. One major factor of accepting a potential offer would be if we could study at the same university, so I feel that mentioning a two-body problem would be advantageous for both, us and the admission committee. But where do I mention this? Is a line in the statement of purpose suitable here?

If you admit me, please also consider admitting my significant other Jane Roe.

Some additional information: We both do research in computer science. While I do research in natural language processing my partner does research in computer vision.

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    Related: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/14337/… – Dawn Nov 28 '17 at 16:30
  • My wife and I applied to a large number of universities, and went to one that accepted both of us. We are in different fields though. – Steven Gubkin Nov 29 '17 at 0:34
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    You should both apply to a school that you know will easily accept you both. Not only because it may serve a backup, but because you may use the fact that you have have an option for both of you as leverage at a school which has only accepted one of you. – Alex S Nov 29 '17 at 2:36
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I would not do this. For faculty applications there is an argument to be made that alerting the search committee about the two-body problem gives them time to come up with solutions. A faculty candidate is a large enough investment on the part of a department/university that spousal hires/accommodations are a reasonable thing. I have never seen a PhD student, however, who is so good that the admissions committee would give the idea of offering a place to the trailing spouse a second of consideration. They might, however, decide you are not worth the effort if they know a partner is involved.

  • "...they might, however, decide you are not worth the effort if they know a partner is involved." Sorry, I do not at all understand the implication behind this sentence. There is more effort on the part of the university if they admit a student who is not single? Can you be more specific about the supposed consequences? – Diffycue Nov 28 '17 at 19:32
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    If a partner is involved, the university may assume that you'd rather stay with your partner if they are not accepted (which should IMO be the case). So, they may think that you are less likely to accept their offer - so they may not want to invest into you. – yupsi Nov 28 '17 at 19:50
  • Do you think that they would discount the candidate with a partner, even if the partner is going to be given a similar consideration/offer? Like, do you think it likely they would pass over the candidate simply for the existence of another partner as opposed to checking to see if the other partner is separately going to receive a consideration? Because if not then it seems that there is no loss to mentioning the two-body problem: If the candidate wouldn't accept an offer where the partner didn't get accepted, that is. – Nate Diamond Nov 28 '17 at 22:49
  • It may be so. In many cases, the interviewers do not have a possibility to check if the partner is also accepted (or they may have to do their decision first) and/or if there are many good candidate, they do a "random" decision and discount people on very small factors (such as the partner's existence). Of course, this may be unfair. Anyway, while there may be no disadvantage, I don't think mentioning the two-body-problem could do any good (in a phD-interview). – yupsi Nov 29 '17 at 8:02
  • "I have never seen a PhD student, however, who is so good that the admissions committee would give the idea of offering a place to the trailing spouse a second of consideration." I disagree. Lots of places are desperate for more PhD students and would be quite pleased to get a trailing spouse. Remember a bad PhD student is much cheaper than a postdoc. – Anonymous Physicist Nov 29 '17 at 8:09
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I had the exact same experience two years ago, also both being in Computer Science in slightly different fields.

In our case our chances were pretty similar as well. However, your sentence ('If you admit me, please also consider admitting my significant other Jane Roe') makes it seem your chances are much higher than your partner's.

If your chances are similar I would mention it in convenient places. For instance when mentioning a project together, talking in person with professors or when a university has a special place to put it (I remember U.Washington had a special field), always remarking that your partner has a similar/better academic level.

If they are not, you can always apply to different tier universities nearby (for example Boston has lots of colleges). Moreover, you should think about how strong the requirement of being in the same university/city is for you. In our case we ended up together in our top choice so there was nothing to reflect upon. However, looking backwards there's two things that I didn't expect that may be useful to think about:

  • Having your partner with you makes it much easier to handle day-to-day research's ups-and-downs.
  • PhD life has a lot more flexibility than expected: choosing a flexible advisor you could travel and spend multiple days a month together. Specially because in CS you can work from home/abroad.
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    "choosing a flexible advisor": I would, however, avoid asking the advisor in an interview whether I could be flexible - this could easily come across as being lazy. – yupsi Nov 28 '17 at 20:01
  • @yupsi you're right; I've added a clarification. In CS you can easily work from home, so you could frame it this way. – etal Nov 28 '17 at 20:05
  • @yupsi I strongly disagree, as someone who has both asked and been asked this. As long as you frame it correctly, it's an important thing to know ahead of time. For example, I have known some people who are absolutely opposed to long periods of remote work, and some who don't care. You need to know that before you're making major decisions about working with them. – Fomite Dec 1 '17 at 9:02
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The literal meaning of "please also consider admitting my significant other Jane Roe" is already conveyed by Jane Roe submitting an application. So you must be making an implicit statement of "please give my significant other Jane Rose special consideration*". If they would admit your SO anyway, then this is not needed, so this only applies if they decide your SO is not the best applicant. Put yourself in their shoes. If you were charged with the task of finding the best candidates for a PhD program, and someone isn't your first choice, would you bump them up simply because they're dating someone who was admitted?

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