Giving birth shortly before internship - seeking interview/ranking advice

Jan 2, 2021
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I am currently in the interview process for predoctoral internship. I am pregnant and will be giving birth in June. I am interviewing at sites with start dates anywhere from July to September. If all things were equal, I would rank sites by their reverse start dates to give myself the most time between birth and start, but as you know not all things are equal and some sites are preferred over others due to training needs, career connections, and so on. The questions below presume that I would need to start my internship year late if I am matched with a site whose start date is on the earlier side.

1) How would you go about finding out about the likely attitudes toward late start of a site with an earlier start date? Through word of mouth I have heard some sites are very accommodating (and I presume others will be less easygoing) but I don’t know how to access this information without a personal connection (which I don’t have) or disclosure during interviews. I’m not willing to disclose because pregnancy discrimination is a real thing, and also, I’m sure it IS a huge pain in the butt to accommodate people in this way so that’s another reason to rank an applicant lower.​
2) Let’s assume I do my best to answer #1 but I probably won’t be able to figure it out for most sites. How did you or would you consider ranking sites balancing your training preferences versus start dates?​

I am especially interested in the opinions of *previous interns or current applicants in my situation* and *training personnel/others with first-hand knowledge* of this situation.

Finally, I have scoured this site and the internet for policies related to the match and childbirth and the best I have found are guidelines not policies. Does anyone know for certain whether it is possible for a site to retract the match offer after match if you need to start late because of childbirth?

THANK YOU!!
 
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NeuroJaguar

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Congratulations! I don't have any information, but you might find this similar thread useful as a start:

 
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Indiana_Jane

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Congratulations! I don’t have any information but I really appreciate you posting. I have one little one and I am trying to navigate the next stage in training + “planning” when to have more kids. I hope you get helpful feedback - it’s always nice to meet other academic mamas on here.
 
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WisNeuro

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Definitely ask sites about their policies as I don't believe you'd qualify for FMLA off the bat. Last I checked you had to have already worked a certain number of hours at an employer before you are eligible for it.
 
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Definitely ask sites about their policies as I don't believe you'd qualify for FMLA off the bat. Last I checked you had to have already worked a certain number of hours at an employer before you are eligible for it.
Definitely would not qualify for FMLA. Most places indicate that for emergencies you could take unpaid time off and that's what I have read about people doing on SDN, though I've only read about people being in this situation in the middle of the internship year. As APPIC materials suggest, it's not uncommon for people to have kids during the internship year. I just haven't seen much about needing to start late. Are you suggesting to ask training directors and disclose at the risk of being penalized or are you suggesting something else? I have considered reaching out to HR people but the issue seems less like an HR issue and more like a specific training schedule issue. Thanks!
 
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WisNeuro

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Definitely would not qualify for FMLA. Most places indicate that for emergencies you could take unpaid time off and that's what I have read about people doing on SDN, though I've only read about people being in this situation in the middle of the internship year. As APPIC materials suggest, it's not uncommon for people to have kids during the internship year. I just haven't seen much about needing to start late. Are you suggesting to ask training directors and disclose at the risk of being penalized or are you suggesting something else? I have considered reaching out to HR people but the issue seems less like an HR issue and more like a specific training schedule issue. Thanks!

You can use FMLA for childbirth (moms and dads), but you have to have something like 1200 hours worked before you qualify. I woudl personally ask training directors or check with former interns and such. The issue with starting late can be very site specific. Some, not all, have strict budgeting issues beyond their control. Adidtionally, depending on the time you take off, your end date may be delayed, which will impact postdoc if you go that route. I'd suggest having as much information as you can about up front in terms of ranking decisions. Much easier to plan for that up front, than scramble after the fact for a site with unfavorable policies. From personal experience, I've had this with trainees within the VA. The leave situation worked, but the intern had to make up the time on the back end and they ended up taking a year off between internship and postdoc.
 
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psych.meout

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Definitely would not qualify for FMLA. Most places indicate that for emergencies you could take unpaid time off and that's what I have read about people doing on SDN, though I've only read about people being in this situation in the middle of the internship year. As APPIC materials suggest, it's not uncommon for people to have kids during the internship year. I just haven't seen much about needing to start late. Are you suggesting to ask training directors and disclose at the risk of being penalized or are you suggesting something else? I have considered reaching out to HR people but the issue seems less like an HR issue and more like a specific training schedule issue. Thanks!
I don't know if this is the best perspective to have on this issue. If a site was going to "penalize" you for being pregnant and possibly needing to start a bit later, do you think it's a good fit for you if you have to hide something this significant from them?

And it's not just about the start date. Complications and other issues with your pregnancy could arise between now and internship, as could there be significant deviations with your newborn during internship. Would you want to hide this and risk matching somewhere that isn't amenable to your situation and wouldn't be supportive?
 
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I certainly understand the concern about not wanting to disclose before having an offer. Could an intermediate option be to ask students during interviews how flexible the program has been with unexpected circumstances like students needing to take medical leave? There could even be a way to couch the question as more COVID/general flexibility related rather than anything directly relevant to your circumstances. And since discussions with students are often (but not always) non-evaluative, that could provide an added level of protection, and you could likely follow up with more specific questions later with students especially if you get any concerning answers.
 
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dcpsychdoc

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I certainly understand the concern about not wanting to disclose before having an offer. Could an intermediate option be to ask students during interviews how flexible the program has been with unexpected circumstances like students needing to take medical leave? There could even be a way to couch the question as more COVID/general flexibility related rather than anything directly relevant to your circumstances. And since discussions with students are often (but not always) non-evaluative, that could provide an added level of protection, and you could likely follow up with more specific questions later with students especially if you get any concerning answers.

I agree that speaking to current interns is a good way to gather information.

I am a TD and do my best to be flexible in these situations. However, I am somewhat limited in my decision making power within the larger system. There are many things I would do to work with a trainee in such a situation, but there are also limitations (e.g., funding) of which I have no control. I would want to be able to explain all of that to the applicant so they can make an informed decision. I wish the OP the best of luck. And congratulations!!
 
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PsychPhDone

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I like @Cam_Chai19 's approach.

Anecdote isn't fact and maybe it's just total coincidence, but 3 internship sites knew about a disability I have (I directly asked sites 2 and 3 about accommodations for the year during interviews, and site 1 knew about it from a current trainee.) I ranked these sites top 3. Matched at 4. I wish it weren't this way, but I always err on the side of not disclosing extenuating circumstances. Which really sucks because as a supervisor, I would bend over backwards for my trainees.
 
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futureapppsy2

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I like @Cam_Chai19 's approach.

Anecdote isn't fact and maybe it's just total coincidence, but 3 internship sites knew about a disability I have (I directly asked sites 2 and 3 about accommodations for the year during interviews, and site 1 knew about it from a current trainee.) I ranked these sites top 3. Matched at 4. I wish it weren't this way, but I always err on the side of not disclosing extenuating circumstances. Which really sucks because as a supervisor, I would bend over backwards for my trainees.
We’ve actually done research on this specific to psych grad students with disabilities and chronic illnesses. People generally recommend not disclosing before interviews if at all possible. In terms of disclosure at interview, there’s a divide between visible and invisible disabilities—those with invisible disabilities tend to recommend not disclosing while those with visible disabilities tend to recommend disclosing in order to take control of the narrative and address any unspoken concerns about competency that interviewers can’t legally ask.
 
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str63

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I completely understand your hesitation of wanting to disclose to sites; however, I think it may be important because it could put you at a disadvantage. For example, some of the tracks/rotations at our site don't have the budget/workload to support more than 1 intern on that rotation at any given time. As an internship training director, I would be supportive of you having a late start/late end date; however, this would also impact which rotations you'd be able to do - and if you were on one particular track we offer, depending on timing, could really impact your experience. I think this sort of information would be very helpful for you to know, as it could impact your ranking decisions. Although you do not have to disclose this information, some faculty could also be angry that you didn't disclose this ahead of time and hold a grudge. I know this isn't fair, but if you give them something unexpected after match day that turns out to be difficult, you could start off on the wrong foot.

Rather than reaching out to all of your sites, perhaps you could reach out to the ones where you would potentially want a late start (i.e., July start dates). I would caution you doing a late start at a September date site because this could make you ineligible at some postdocs who want someone to start by early September. Although I understand the advice about asking current trainees about a program's flexibility (current trainees are a great source of info!), I don't know if that would offer you much information about your specific situation because it's unlikely current trainees needed any sort of extended leave or requested a late start. These issues often extend beyond flexibility of the faculty and may need input from the larger organization. Also, whether you disclose may also depend on how many interviews you have. If you have a low amount of interviews, I can understand your hesitation even more. Happy to chat further if it would be helpful!

Good luck to you - and I think you're a rock star for moving forward with your career! :)
 
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WisNeuro

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The above is a good point. At two of the sites I have supervised at, we have had rotations only available at certain points in the year, either due to faculty availability, or certain timing or programming. This would be very important information for your ranking if a site ha a similar setup and one of those rotations happened to be one that you sought highly.
 
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Action_Potential

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We would 100% be supportive of parental leave, but we have had the following concerns:

FMLA impacting hours completion
Funding
Contracts
Specialty training requirements/opportunities at onset
Supervision
Rotation limitations
Access to resources (ie: offices, computers) for later completion
Cohort cohesion
Completion of hospital orientation
Beginning of time sensitive Qi/research
Ability to observe enough before recommendations for postdoc are due

I’d want to know if I am ranking a top applicant that we’d then have to decline, and move to round 2. If it’s not feasible, it’s just not a good fit. We would both be disappointed and frustrated, and both miss out on matching with our #2’s.

I do know plenty of programs where the above problems are not present at all! Colleagues have actually had great discussions about pregnancy/pending surgery during internship interviews and bonded/showed fit from those disclosures.

Unfortunately, I have also seen disclosure of disability be a likely factor in selection, and completely support wanting to remove that potential factor during interview.

Best of luck to you: would be nice to get a follow-up on your choices and outcomes.
 

GradStudent2020

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I am currently in the interview process for predoctoral internship. I am pregnant and will be giving birth in June. I am interviewing at sites with start dates anywhere from July to September. If all things were equal, I would rank sites by their reverse start dates to give myself the most time between birth and start, but as you know not all things are equal and some sites are preferred over others due to training needs, career connections, and so on. The questions below presume that I would need to start my internship year late if I am matched with a site whose start date is on the earlier side.

1) How would you go about finding out about the likely attitudes toward late start of a site with an earlier start date? Through word of mouth I have heard some sites are very accommodating (and I presume others will be less easygoing) but I don’t know how to access this information without a personal connection (which I don’t have) or disclosure during interviews. I’m not willing to disclose because pregnancy discrimination is a real thing, and also, I’m sure it IS a huge pain in the butt to accommodate people in this way so that’s another reason to rank an applicant lower.​
2) Let’s assume I do my best to answer #1 but I probably won’t be able to figure it out for most sites. How did you or would you consider ranking sites balancing your training preferences versus start dates?​

I am especially interested in the opinions of *previous interns or current applicants in my situation* and *training personnel/others with first-hand knowledge* of this situation.

Finally, I have scoured this site and the internet for policies related to the match and childbirth and the best I have found are guidelines not policies. Does anyone know for certain whether it is possible for a site to retract the match offer after match if you need to start late because of childbirth?

THANK YOU!!
There’s a 0% chance I’d disclose pregnancy status during interviews or even ask HR/current trainees about policies. Many companies publish benefits information online, and there may be some information in the internship brochure. It wouldn’t hurt to ask current trainees and potential supervisors about work/life balance in general.

Pregnant women are routinely discriminated against and our field is no exception. The responses here show a glimpse of what a “burden” it might be to take on a new mother.

My kiddo was a toddler when I was applying and I spoke about her in my essays. I wanted to match someone that was a good fit and supportive of working moms. I’m sure this cost me some interviews. I lost out on a practicum spot I’d secured after I told them I was pregnant (not showing yet, and would not have impacted my timeline there). A female psychologist that was part of the interview process pulled me aside after. She told me I was brave to share and to expect them to rescind my offer. They did.

The PTO and benefits for each site should be available to you. See who has the most PTO and take it up front. My internship site offered a pre-tax daycare benefit (FSA) which was really helpful.

Congratulations!
 
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WisNeuro

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Point of reference, many sites, including the VA do not give you all of your PTO up front. It s accrued at X # of hours per pay period.
 
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albatross_at_crossroads

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There’s a 0% chance I’d disclose pregnancy status during interviews or even ask HR/current trainees about policies. Many companies publish benefits information online, and there may be some information in the internship brochure. It wouldn’t hurt to ask current trainees and potential supervisors about work/life balance in general.

Pregnant women are routinely discriminated against and our field is no exception. The responses here show a glimpse of what a “burden” it might be to take on a new mother.

My kiddo was a toddler when I was applying and I spoke about her in my essays. I wanted to match someone that was a good fit and supportive of working moms. I’m sure this cost me some interviews. I lost out on a practicum spot I’d secured after I told them I was pregnant (not showing yet, and would not have impacted my timeline there). A female psychologist that was part of the interview process pulled me aside after. She told me I was brave to share and to expect them to rescind my offer. They did.

The PTO and benefits for each site should be available to you. See who has the most PTO and take it up front. My internship site offered a pre-tax daycare benefit (FSA) which was really helpful.

Congratulations!
I agree that pregnant individuals are often the target of discrimination in many places, and disclosing can be a risk.
However - your offer being rescinded although your pregnancy wouldn't impact the site at all, that sounds like grounds for a lawsuit (or at least involving the program and DCT to deal out some serious consequences). What if they found out you have a chronic condition, an ill family member or other similar situations? Would they rescind as well, due to some ill-perceived future inconveniences? This is just unacceptable and also reduces the diversity in our field, which we still have to work on.

OP- it might be a good idea to contact the site (HR or admin offices) anonymously, or have a friend call them, and figure out their official policies regarding leave/PTO and available support for pregnant individuals; at least that way you won't have to disclose during interviews, which are stressful enough as it is. Best bet would be to go with a site that has the best official policies, because they have to adhere to those no matter what.
Congratulations and best of luck!
 
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affectiveH3art

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I believe both arguments of disclosing vs. not are valid. I think this is a decision you should process with your family, DCT and maybe a close professor/advisor who may have been in a similar situation. I have two children, one is a grad school baby (gave birth during second semester). I chose to never disclose I was a single parent due to the fear of discrimination in grad school. I also never mentioned it during internship interviews and only inquired if the site was "family friendly" which may have negatively impacted my first internship experience as they were not. Now I am very open and share this because it's important for people to know my circumstances. I am now at an internship that is very flexible and helpful with my schedule. For example, my children were out of school for 3 weeks - I figured out ways I could use PTO to my advantage and shared this with supervisors and was able to take the least amount for the 3 week span. I am even choosing to share this during post-doc interviews as some of the reasons I am choosing the post doc is to stay in that area for a longer time period because my children are getting older. Although they are adaptable, they are starting to feel the sadness of leaving friends behind - I do not want this to negatively impact their development. I've received some positive feedback in interviews regarding my resilience as a single mother going through grad school, working long hours and relocating so many times. You can PM if you would like to chat if that is helpful as well!
 
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CheetahGirl

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I chose to never disclose I was a single parent due to the fear of discrimination in grad school.
I also chose to never disclose I had four young kids/baby at home...and in fact, one of my internship supervisors (at a VA site) had no clue that I had kids until we discussed what my plans were in my exit interview. For me it was sort of feminist thing...wanting to be judged on my merit alone, not asking for accommodations, and it was none of their business anyhow (I had everything under control at home - God-willing...and entirely grateful, very fortunate that I (we) pulled it all off...with my Mom, Spouse, Nanny's help - it certainly took a village). Please note: a VA internship was ideal (for me) because the tour of duty is solid 8am-4:30pm...I was home everyday to help make dinner, put my sweet bunnies to sleep, and (they woke up early anyhow...)so I was always there for first feedings, breakfast time, etc. I know of one intern who delivered during internship, and she took a leave of absence, and they helped her develop her own unique tour. When she returned, she ran an inpatient group with me (when I was a Fellow at the same site), and was able to stagger her full-year.

I'm kind of humble bragging, but I also breast-fed each of my kids for the first year of their lives (with no formula given, and then, they transitioned to cow's milk. TMI, I know...). This is wholeheartedly a personal decision, but I was able to pump in grad school (and my pervious research jobs). It's a lot on you, but encouragement that it can be done. Also, PM if you would like any further support.
 
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affectiveH3art

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I also chose to never disclose I had four young kids/baby at home...and in fact, one of my internship supervisors (at a VA site) had no clue that I had kids until we discussed what my plans were in my exit interview. For me it was sort of feminist thing...wanting to be judged on my merit alone, not asking for accommodations, and it was none of their business anyhow (I had everything under control at home - God-willing...and entirely grateful, very fortunate that I (we) pulled it all off...with my Mom, Spouse, Nanny's help - it certainly took a village). Please note: a VA internship was ideal (for me) because the tour of duty is solid 8am-4:30pm...I was home everyday to help make dinner, put my sweet bunnies to sleep, and (they woke up early anyhow...)so I was always there for first feedings, breakfast time, etc. I know of one intern who delivered during internship, and she took a leave of absence, and they helped her develop her own unique tour. When she returned, she ran an inpatient group with me (when I was a Fellow at the same site), and was able to stagger her full-year.

I'm kind of humble bragging, but I also breast-fed each of my kids for the first year of their lives (with no formula given, and then, they transitioned to cow's milk). This is wholeheartedly a personal decision, but I was able to pump in grad school (and my pervious research jobs). It's a lot on you, but encouragement that it can be done. Also, PM if you would like any further support.
That's so awesome - in year 5 of grad school I mentioned I had kids and no one believed me LOL that's awesome you had support! The challenge for me was finding support. I am lucky I had an amazing mother who would fly out for a week at a time when I had pending deadlines like analyzing all my dissertation data within a week to defend in 6 weeks. I second the feminist statement - I was appalled when a supervisor once made a comment of "You must have a wonderful husband" when I told her I had 2 children. No words for that one. On post doc interview I am even specifically stating "Since I am a single mother of two children..." It's sad I have to say things like that. Humble brag on cause that is amazing!
 
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PsychPhDone

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Point of reference, many sites, including the VA do not give you all of your PTO up front. It s accrued at X # of hours per pay period.
This probably was not kosher but one of the places I trained let you take advanced leave as long as it didn't exceed what you'd eventually get for the year.
 

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This probably was not kosher but one of the places I trained let you take advanced leave as long as it didn't exceed what you'd eventually get for the year.

All depends on the HR rules at the institution. Good idea to find out their policies in advance.
 

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I'm too lazy to read through this thread (chalk it up to pandemic parenting in the midst of applying for my K), but this is a great resource if it has already not been mentioned:
 
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GradStudent2020

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I agree that pregnant individuals are often the target of discrimination in many places, and disclosing can be a risk.
However - your offer being rescinded although your pregnancy wouldn't impact the site at all, that sounds like grounds for a lawsuit (or at least involving the program and DCT to deal out some serious consequences). What if they found out you have a chronic condition, an ill family member or other similar situations? Would they rescind as well, due to some ill-perceived future inconveniences? This is just unacceptable and also reduces the diversity in our field, which we still have to work on.

OP- it might be a good idea to contact the site (HR or admin offices) anonymously, or have a friend call them, and figure out their official policies regarding leave/PTO and available support for pregnant individuals; at least that way you won't have to disclose during interviews, which are stressful enough as it is. Best bet would be to go with a site that has the best official policies, because they have to adhere to those no matter what.
Congratulations and best of luck!
Yes, this particular site had many red flags. Against my better judgement I took a practicum with them after my kiddo was older. Unfortunately practicum options were somewhat limited at the time and for various reasons I did not report this to my University. What they did wasn’t “right” but power dynamics being what they are mean they got away with It.

I was very fortunate to have great training experiences at other practicum sites.


My internship site considered interns employees for the purposes of most policies. However, regular employees accrue PTO monthly, and we were awarded all of ours for the year upfront. IIRC, this had something to do with APA guidelines. Not 100% sure but they mentioned they “had to” provide it all up front.
 

WisNeuro

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There are stipulations about pay and leave in internship accreditation standards, but it does not stipulate that PTO must be awarded "up front" if the institution has a policy of accrual for PTO before use.
 
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Congratulations on your growing family!

As you surmised, FMLA is a non-starter; some companies and agencies have their own internal version of FMLA for people during their first year of employment, but interns are usually in a weird gray area (not students at that place, but also not traditional employees) so hard to bank on that unless you can find firm documentation (e.g. in the internship handbook) about eligibility.

In terms of whether to risk disclosure before the ranking process, I think it depends somewhat on what your decisionmaking process would be if you knew that delaying your start date would NOT be feasible. For example, let's say your top choice is a July 1 start. If you would rank them first regardless of whether they'd be willing to let you start late, then I don't think you buy yourself anything by disclosing early - there's the risk of how it might change their perceptions of you, but no benefit to you, because whatever information they share won't change your ranking. The balance is different, though, if their answer WOULD change your rankings. For instance, if unwillingness or inability to accommodate a late start would significantly change your ranking of them, the risk of asking might be outweighed by the benefit of getting that information early.

You might also consider asking whether you'd be able to start on time, but then take leave shortly thereafter. Many internship sites have significant front-end training and orientation activities set up in the first week or two, so missing those could be a lot more of a hassle than attending those 1-2 weeks and then taking time off after the start.
 
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