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How difficult is to transfer your PhD to another University


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12 replies to this topic

#1 mechis

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 07:11 PM

Hey there guys,
I was accepted into a PhD program that I like but not at all my favorite one. But... I have no other offers :oops: I was thinking about going there for my first year and then to apply again for next year to a different program I like better. Do you think it is possible?? Could it be easy to do? or I should rather wait for another year while working and then apply again? Seriously, I have no idea what to do. Besides, in the program I was accepted I have to pay half tuition and I only have stipend during my 2nd, 3rd and 4th year... ad not very hight
Thank you
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#2 hannah

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 07:40 PM

Once you get into a program, I believe it will be dificult to transfer to a different program. After all, who is going to write those LOR? Haha, the professors you are leaving behind! I went into a PhD program I didn't want (so I thought) but after I got there, it turned out better than I expected. With luck, yours may, too. No one left our program for another PhD program, though. The only ones who left were the ones who were not admitted to PhD candidacy. You would be safer going to a MA program only, where everyone is expected to move on,I think, unless there is the possibility that you--like me--might find you actually liked the program more than you thought you would.
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#3 hannah

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 07:54 PM

This is it. Flip a coin. While the coin is in the air, before the coin comes down, you will become aware of some wish of how it will come down. Follow that wish. THAT is where you REALLY want to go. Amen. I am not joking. There is a part of yourself that knows. All the rest is rationalization. See ya in St. Louis. Or somewhere!
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#4 engguy

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 09:29 PM

as wacky as hannah's solution is, it's a relatively good one in this situation -- and after all, as a philosopher, s/he should know. 8)

I wasn't able to make my own choice until I realized that deciding yes or no to one option was more about talking myself out of something i was leaning towards, while another was talking myself into something i was leaning away from.

that said, if you are already imagining transferring to another university after a year, and facing the prospect of going into debt -- unless there's a compelling reason to go right now, why not wait? strengthen your application and have a go at those schools you really want to attend, with full funding.
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#5 rising_star

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 10:20 PM

I would just wait and apply again. Is it worth it to pay half of the tuition to take courses that probably wouldn't even transfer?
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#6 mechis

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 10:28 PM

My main concern is that I am 28 and think I am pretty old to start a PhD when almost 30... I got into CUNY and don't know if the could offer me a better scholarship for next year... the tuition is not very high 3000 per year, but it is still a lot of money, at least for me... Im completely lost....
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#7 rising_star

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 11:17 PM

My mom started her PhD at 33 and after having 3 kids. You'll be fine waiting a year. Unless... did you also post this on lj? because someone over there asked about CUNY and went into more details and got a quite different response...
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"Getting an education was a bit like a communicable sexual disease.
It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs and then you had the urge to pass it on." - Terry Pratchett, Hogfather


"You can think I'm wrong, but that's no reason to quit thinking." - House


#8 TMP

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Posted 13 April 2008 - 12:31 AM

I can speak from experience as a transfer student in UG.

When I was a senior in HS, I only really had two/three choices. One was a very good school but all-women's . One was so-so but very strong in one of my majors that I thought I'd like to do, and one was... safety so that was pretty much an automatic rejection as I had no intention of going there. When I visited both places, I could most definitely seem myself leaving the so-so school after a year or two because it just didn't feel right. So I went to the good school. I tried to go in with an open mind even though I wish I had gotten in better schools. My year (though very, very fulfilling experience) was generally miserable. I wasn't impressed with the academics in general or anything...

So I transferred and now am much, much happier. Sometimes I reflect on how this first year was a "waste" because I "shoudl've" gotten in this dream school of mine in the first place.

Moral of the story: Do NOT go anywhere that you're NOT excited about. Not only you're wasting the professors' time but also yours in terms of energy and money. I had two MA programs to choose from- one in a top 10 with a program that's really good but another in the 30s but better program. I visited the other and met the professor that I'd work with. I never visited the top 10. Guess which one I picked? The top 10 because when I visited the 30s school, I found myself feeling the same way when I did my campus visits when I was a senior in HS. If I didn't have my top 10, I would go to the 30s and definitely switch out after the MA since it's only for 2 years. But with the top 10, I know i can stay around for my PhD if it all goes well as I know people who went there and have been in contact with the faculty (and met one at a lecture two years ago).

Your own happiness is much more important than anything else. Professors know this really well because they know from their own experience that academia can be very hard and people will ultimately flunk out if they're not happy or excited about being part of it. MIserable students = miserable work/grades = jump ship.

I hope this helps! :)
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#9 studentfromLA

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Posted 13 April 2008 - 01:38 AM

I had a friend who tried to transfer from one Ph.D. program to another and it was a nightmare. The professors he had worked with really did not want him to go to another school, and thus did not enthusiastically support his application. Have you visited the program? If you have visited and still are unenthusiastic, I think it would be a mistake to go into the program planning to transfer. Does the program offer a Master's Degree? Maybe you can ask if you can enter that program instead. Otherwise, I would wait a year and re-apply, doing what you can this year to bolster your application.

29 will not be too old to start a Ph.D. program, so long as what you have been doing in the interim (since you left college) was mostly productive. I have a friend who was 39 when she started her Ph.D.
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#10 StarvingStudentYeah

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Posted 13 April 2008 - 02:41 AM

29, 30, and 35 are all acceptable ages to start a PhD. We're not all cookie cutters.

I would definitely recommend you decline the current offer and re-apply to next year. I also recommend you do a LOT of research and find ALL the PhD programs that fit your research interests, and then apply to ALL those, but ONLY those. It's beyond me why people are applying to schools that when they get in, they don't want to attend. A safety is not a safety if you get in and don't want to go. I had some safeties that I considered, but I didn't apply to them because I knew if I got in my heart just wouldn't be in it.

Anyway, everyone I have ever spoken with has been of a mind that it is a VERY bad idea to attempt to leave one PhD and start another - particularly if they are in the same field. Assumable, people with enough age and maturity to be applying to PhD programs have progressed past the point of making a rash choice then realizing they were wrong a year later.

I have talked to many academics, chairs, etc who said they will not even review an app from someone who has already begun a PhD elsewhere. Why? Well, the whole point of a PhD app process is to basically separate those who are serious and will complete the program from those who won't. Let be honest, most all of his who got through undergrad with a >3.5GPA, 1200+ GRE, and good LOR have the mental temerity to complete PhD level work as long as we are truly committed to doing so.

So, the primary job of the committee is to figure out who will, and who will not complete the program and add to the program's prestige and line of research and publish. This is a job they take very seriously, because 1) the university will be committing considerable resources, and $$ to that candidate. Plus, let's not forget that the rankings so many of you drool over are based, in part, on ridiculous criteria like % enrolled vs. % completed.

Let's also not forget the person who would LOVE the slot you are taking half-heartedly. Believe it or not, there is someone out there on a waiting list who is a real person and has this school as their TOP choice.

As I told someone else - if you are really considering doing this, IMO you need to call the chair of the dept and tell him/her that you are thinking of accepting, but that you aren't that thrilled and may well just chuck the school off for a better offer next year, if it comes along. If you tell them, and they still want you then do as you wish. Otherwise, in my opinion you are being deceitful.
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#11 sashababie

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 06:59 AM

It's not as if you're still in undergrad and not positively sure about your field of study; transfers at this are largely acceptable. When you applied to PhD most committees assume you have strong interest in their programs and are therefore presenting yourself as a future candidate, and they make you an offer on this basic understanding. If you don't achieve candidacy because the work was too strenuous or your interests change (!?), that's regretable but understandable; if you use the year enrolled in the program without committing yourself to it as a temporary stepping board, then you're violating a tacit agreement which you WILLINGLY ENTERED INTO, which is really NOT acceptable.
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#12 engguy

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 02:33 PM

Just a couple more thoughts here: first, I have to concur with previous posters who've said you're NOT too old to start a PhD -- and you won't be next year, either.

Second, while I do agree it's a bad idea to start one program with the idea of jumping to another, I don't think it's as morally reprehensible as some have claimed. And I think there are cases when it could even be justified -- for example, imagine starting a program with the idea of working with a certain professor; that professor jumps ship for another school, leaving you and your research in the dust. OK -- one could argue that you shouldn't put all your intellectual eggs in one basket, but I believe this kind of thing happens all the time. And there are many other ways universities could pull resources out from under you part of the way through -- if that happens, and you feel the terms of your initial understanding with the program is violated, I believe you'd be justified in leaving. And no one would blame you.

But the situation you've laid out just doesn't sound wise. I had a friend who was thinking of doing the same thing -- starting his PhD at a really low-tier university and then switching later on -- I tried and tried to talk him out of it. Finally he got in to one of his top choices. I think all he would've gained at the first school was a lot of debt and some credits he would have difficulty transferring.
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#13 StarvingStudentYeah

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 06:46 PM

Just a couple more thoughts here: first, I have to concur with previous posters who've said you're NOT too old to start a PhD -- and you won't be next year, either.

Second, while I do agree it's a bad idea to start one program with the idea of jumping to another, I don't think it's as morally reprehensible as some have claimed. And I think there are cases when it could even be justified -- for example, imagine starting a program with the idea of working with a certain professor; that professor jumps ship for another school, leaving you and your research in the dust. OK -- one could argue that you shouldn't put all your intellectual eggs in one basket, but I believe this kind of thing happens all the time. And there are many other ways universities could pull resources out from under you part of the way through -- if that happens, and you feel the terms of your initial understanding with the program is violated, I believe you'd be justified in leaving. And no one would blame you.

But the situation you've laid out just doesn't sound wise. I had a friend who was thinking of doing the same thing -- starting his PhD at a really low-tier university and then switching later on -- I tried and tried to talk him out of it. Finally he got in to one of his top choices. I think all he would've gained at the first school was a lot of debt and some credits he would have difficulty transferring.


I friend of mine was also accepted, and will be attending SUNY-Buffalo in the English PhD program. Small world.
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