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An Ordinary Object

Transfer Advice

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Posted (edited)

Hi everyone, I'm looking for advice on hopping programs.

I entered my current PhD program with my BA (from a medium-sized LAC) one year ago, with a statement of purpose that I was embarrassingly broad. I've decided on an AOS, but now I want an upgrade. Placement at my (Leiter-unranked, though not unmentioned) program is decent, though in recent (~past five) years it's been bad. When there is TT placement, it's to R3s (or R2s, once in a blue moon). I'll welcome any advice! Here are a few specific concerns.

(1) My GREs were 164V (94%), 160Q (76%), and 4.0W (60%). Should I take the GRE again?

(2) I have one undergrad letter I can still use, from my department chair who went to a Leiter #21, is professionally visible, and edited a volume for Blackwell. I'm expecting to secure two letters from a prof in my AOS. Is this a good plan?

(3) I familiarized myself with Leiter's rankings, and it looks like a good application spread for my new AOI (medieval) would be Toronto, Notre Dame, Boulder, Cornell, SLU, and Purdue. Does anyone at one of these six places have insights about applying to them? Or about the status of their medievalists? And, does anyone know whether Georgetown is a decent option?

(4) Are there any embarrassing blunders I should avoid committing as I navigate this whole thing?

I plan to apply out this fall, and again next fall if nothing happens.

Thanks in advance for the help!

Edited by An Ordinary Object

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Since it seems part of your desire to transfer stems from concerns about the job market, it probably worth noting that the job market for medievalists is probably worse than for philosophy generally. And since, you make it sound like you'd like an R1 position, it's probably also worth mentioning (beyond the fact that it's extremely hard for anyone to get an R1 position) that the one place where medievalists actually get hired (semi-)regularly is at Catholic colleges and universities (which, with a few notable exceptions, means smaller teaching colleges). None of this is to deter you. It may still make sense to transfer, but these are good things to think about going in. It would also probably behoove you for the job market to demonstrate a competency in related field (if you work on medieval metaphysics, make sure you can teach a class on contemporary metaphysics, or gain the skills to teach an into ancient or early modern class). That means picking  a programs that can facilitate your development in the related field as well as medieval philosophy. 

15 hours ago, An Ordinary Object said:

 (1) My GREs were 164V (94%), 160Q (76%), and 4.0W (60%). Should I take the GRE again?

Probably not worth your time

15 hours ago, An Ordinary Object said:

(2) I have one undergrad letter I can still use, from my department chair who went to a Leiter #21, is professionally visible, and edited a volume for Blackwell. I'm expecting to secure two letters from a prof in my AOS. Is this a good plan?

Not quite sure what you mean by two letter from one prof. I think it's fine to have one letter from undergrad, the other two should probably come from your current program.

15 hours ago, An Ordinary Object said:

(3) I familiarized myself with Leiter's rankings, and it looks like a good application spread for my new AOI (medieval) would be Toronto, Notre Dame, Boulder, Cornell, SLU, and Purdue. Does anyone at one of these six places have insights about applying to them? Or about the status of their medievalists? And, does anyone know whether Georgetown is a decent option?

Double check the retirement status of the medievalists at this program. Eleonore Stump, for example, could plausibly retire at any time.

15 hours ago, An Ordinary Object said:

 (4) Are there any embarrassing blunders I should avoid committing as I navigate this whole thing?

Don't alienate professors or other grad students at you current program. It's always possible that your transfer attempt fails, which means you will need to be working with these people for another 4+ years.

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Posted (edited)
22 hours ago, An Ordinary Object said:

Hi everyone, I'm looking for advice on hopping programs.

I entered my current PhD program with my BA (from a medium-sized LAC) one year ago, with a statement of purpose that I was embarrassingly broad. I've decided on an AOS, but now I want an upgrade. Placement at my (Leiter-unranked, though not unmentioned) program is decent, though in recent (~past five) years it's been bad. When there is TT placement, it's to R3s (or R2s, once in a blue moon). I'll welcome any advice! Here are a few specific concerns.

(1) My GREs were 164V (94%), 160Q (76%), and 4.0W (60%). Should I take the GRE again?

(2) I have one undergrad letter I can still use, from my department chair who went to a Leiter #21, is professionally visible, and edited a volume for Blackwell. I'm expecting to secure two letters from a prof in my AOS. Is this a good plan?

(3) I familiarized myself with Leiter's rankings, and it looks like a good application spread for my new AOI (medieval) would be Toronto, Notre Dame, Boulder, Cornell, SLU, and Purdue. Does anyone at one of these six places have insights about applying to them? Or about the status of their medievalists? And, does anyone know whether Georgetown is a decent option?

(4) Are there any embarrassing blunders I should avoid committing as I navigate this whole thing?

I plan to apply out this fall, and again next fall if nothing happens.

Thanks in advance for the help!

@Glasperlenspieler has given you good advice. I have a few additional thoughts. I haven't myself transferred programs, but I do know people who have done so. My sense is that moving up the rankings once you're already in a PhD program is difficult. Of course, it still might be worth a shot. I've heard of instances in which it has happened. However, I've also heard of students making lateral moves or moving to lower-ranked programs. I think it partly depends on the circumstances that lead to the transfer, which brings me to my second point: You'll need to offer a reasonable explanation to admissions committees about why you're seeking to transfer. Maybe this goes without saying, but don't portray your present program in an unfavorable light. I know you're concerned about placement at your current program, but it also sounds as though (maybe?) you don't have someone you can work with right now in your desired AOS. That's a perfectly good and uncontroversial reason to transfer. As for your concerns about placement at your present program, I would worry about mentioning this in your SOP. Placement isn't great at lots of good programs, and medieval, as Glasperlenspieler mentioned, is a particularly difficult area for jobs. Ad coms might think you're out of touch, that you're not going to be satisfied at their program either, etc etc. Rather, make a case for why your program isn't a good fit for you, and why the program to which you're applying is.

Edited by hector549

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I mentioned this in another post, but to my surprise, there were 4 who were transferring out of their current programs that were on Notre Dame's waitlist and some of which had been accepted to U T Austin and UVA. My impression is that transferring is becoming much more common and I think desirable to a certain extent: programs want students to finish in 5 or 6 years, and this will be more likely if you already have one or two years of doctoral studies under your belt. 

Edited by VentralStream

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