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Leaving a Program half-way for another Program

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I got into a low-ranked program (between 15-20). I have to devote about 2 years to the MA degree first on my way to the PhD. I am wondering........what if I leave the program after I get a MA and apply to a top-5 program in 2012? Any pros and cons?

Edited by toto

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First of all, congrats on getting in, that's awesome. And one of the top 20 programs in the country! I wouldn't call that low-ranked, you should be proud of yourself!

Anecdotally, I know of one student who "followed" a professor from one ranked ~20 program to another ranked ~10 program after his MA, not because of the rankings, but rather due to a lack of general support of the sociology department and his research interests specifically. So I suppose this shows it may be possible to switch if you have a professor behind your research and you can show the new school exactly why your research belongs with them and not at the other school.

If you would want to leave specifically due to the rankings, I don't really have enough information to say for sure whether that is wise or unwise, but I think the consensus on this forum is generally that if you go to a good program that supports your work, and you produce good research, then the specific rank is not going to prevent you from teaching just about anywhere, except at perhaps the very top top schools.

That being said, it can't hurt you to go to the (I'm assuming funded) MA and leave, right? I guess the only thing would be, if somehow you could foresee that you could not get in to the school you wanted in 2012, would you still go to the school at all?

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I got into a low-ranked program (between 15-20). I have to devote about 2 years to the MA degree first on my way to the PhD. I am wondering........what if I leave the program after I get a MA and apply to a top-5 program in 2012? Any pros and cons?

Dude anything between 15-20 is not low ranked. Go where you think you are going to do good work and be happy.

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15-20 is definitely not low ranked. I am having to really check myself as I answer this because that statement really raised my hackles.

I think it is generally frowned upon to leave one program for another, so going into it with that being your plan could be really awkward. Also, think about having to ask for LORs from people who have sunk a lot of time into training you with the expectation that you were going to be there for the duration. Also, think of how awkward it would be if you went through that process and then got rejected and so had to stay at the school that you just try to bail on.

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15-20 is definitely not low ranked. I am having to really check myself as I answer this because that statement really raised my hackles.

I think it is generally frowned upon to leave one program for another, so going into it with that being your plan could be really awkward. Also, think about having to ask for LORs from people who have sunk a lot of time into training you with the expectation that you were going to be there for the duration. Also, think of how awkward it would be if you went through that process and then got rejected and so had to stay at the school that you just try to bail on.

I think it is generally frowned upon to leave one program for another without a good reason.

There are definitely plenty of good reasons to move: not enough funding, the loss of a professor (a kid I knew from my undergrad followed Saskia Sassen from Chicago to Columbia), research moving in a direction that wasn't a good fit for the department. Perhaps a change in a family situation (wanting to be closer to a sick parent, for example). I don't think programs frown on transferring for those reasons. Generally, note, that in all of these situations the department and the student would probably agree that this isn't the best place for the student.

However, there are plenty of other reasons to leave a program: certain medical problems, difficulty working with professors* or other interpersonal problems, couldn't hack the work. Things like that. But those kinds of things might cast doubt (generally) on your ability to finish a degree, which is what most schools will ultimately want (after all, they're investing the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars in your education).

I think it's generally quite rare for students to unilaterally decide to leave; I've personally never heard of it, but think of what signals it might send to the other schools.

On the other hand, if it is a separate masters program (not an MA/PhD program), well then that's an entirely different story.

*There are probably certain situations where a problem with one professor could lead to an amicable break between the department and the student.

Edited by jacib

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If you have received admission to a program where you earn your MA en route to earning your PhD there, I would strongly suggest not leaving right after you receive your MA. Some programs I have looked into, essentially give you the MA as a consolation prize for not finishing your work towards a PhD. Other admissions committees will know this, and it will look bad on your application. If you have your heart set on going to an absolute top school (and top 15-20 ain't have bad!) I would not take the offer and reapply next here, unless they have a terminal master's option (which will likely be unfunded).

Best of luck and congrats on your acceptance!

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If you have received admission to a program where you earn your MA en route to earning your PhD there, I would strongly suggest not leaving right after you receive your MA. Some programs I have looked into, essentially give you the MA as a consolation prize for not finishing your work towards a PhD. Other admissions committees will know this, and it will look bad on your application. If you have your heart set on going to an absolute top school (and top 15-20 ain't have bad!) I would not take the offer and reapply next here, unless they have a terminal master's option (which will likely be unfunded).

Best of luck and congrats on your acceptance!

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I got into a low-ranked program (between 15-20). I have to devote about 2 years to the MA degree first on my way to the PhD. I am wondering........what if I leave the program after I get a MA and apply to a top-5 program in 2012? Any pros and cons?

I want to point out that it kinda sucks that this person has a -2 for just asking an honest answer to a question they didn't know. They weren't being rude, or obtusely argumentative, or aggressively stupid (which are the reasons I tend to give out minuses). It was basically a question about how the system works. Perhaps the poorly chosen words "low-ranked program" instead of "a program ranked lower than I'd like" drew warnings? Seems like we've got some itchy fingers here.

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I want to point out that it kinda sucks that this person has a -2 for just asking an honest answer to a question they didn't know. They weren't being rude, or obtusely argumentative, or aggressively stupid (which are the reasons I tend to give out minuses). It was basically a question about how the system works. Perhaps the poorly chosen words "low-ranked program" instead of "a program ranked lower than I'd like" drew warnings? Seems like we've got some itchy fingers here.

Where do you see the warnings or the negative numbers???

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I want to point out that it kinda sucks that this person has a -2 for just asking an honest answer to a question they didn't know. They weren't being rude, or obtusely argumentative, or aggressively stupid (which are the reasons I tend to give out minuses). It was basically a question about how the system works. Perhaps the poorly chosen words "low-ranked program" instead of "a program ranked lower than I'd like" drew warnings? Seems like we've got some itchy fingers here.

I just gave her/him a + since i think this is a very important question to ask!

Also, I think that many people can benefit from this conversation and by everything that's been said about the rankings. I personally think rankings are not as important as placement (i understand that the two are related)... and by far, the most important thing will always be FIT! If you don't fit in a department, it can be the best freaking department in the world, but chances are you won't be as productive academically.

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People do it all the time, and I understand your but it's a political decision.

Chances are, your advisor either went to school with or taught someone in the top five program you're applying to (academia's a small world). So, whether they say it or not, emails and conversations will occur and feelings could be hurt.

Safest bet....get the MA, do something with the Census for a couple of years, and rediscover your love for sociology and possibly apply elsewhere.

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