The title of this may be a little confusing. My delema is this: I am a physics undergrad with only one more semester left to go. I am also a co-op at a really great little company that designs and produces waveguide optical components, sensors, microfluidics, and spectrometers - really cool place. They told me they would hire me after I graduate *if* they have the money. I plan to take them up on that offer if the offer still stands when I graduate. But because this company is so small (and the economy is so fail), they really can't make an accurate prediction on whether they will have the funds to hire me until JUST before the time comes...maybe a month's notice at best. That's just because they don't want to commit to something until they KNOW they can afford it - and the further away a decision is, the less they know. And in a company of 12 people, you do have to make damn sure you can afford it before you agree to pay someone's salary for a year... And here's where it gets complicated...."Just before the time comes", is actually just before the standard academic year starts, since my current undergraduate class rotation involves academic study during the summer. So here's where I am confused and obviously don't know how things work with grad schools. First of all, I haven't applied to any Grad programs yet. Can I apply, and if accepted, defer the decision of whether or not to actually go there until literally a month before I would start? Or do you sign a contract well before that? What should I tell them in any Grad School applications or interviews? Any suggestions on how to approach this problem?