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Concerns about Re-Apply for PhD in another school


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Hi guys, I have a problem which makes me think a lot of recently. Hope someone could give me some suggestions and ideas

I am a first year PhD student with TAship at a university in OR, and my fiancee is also a first year PhD student at another university in OK. Both of us have the same major. For some reasons, we cannot get the admission from same school. Now, after one and half months' study at different schools, both of us noticed that it's very hard to continue study without each other. Also, I feel uncomfortable about the atmosphere in the new department because everyone here is not very friendly. So I decide to re-apply for her university. Although her school has lower tier than my school, it is enough for me and I will be happier in there.

I would like to ask my M.S. adviser to write another LOR for me, but what I am worried about is that my decision may make him angry. Because he has some connections with my current department and he recommended me to join in this school last year. Will he understand my decision? Because I just want to live closer with my wife and take care of my family better.

So what should I do? Still try to contact M.S. adviser and tell him about my decision or just ask another 3 professors in my M.S. school to write LORs for me? I think I am a TA in the current school, my main job is grading undergrad's homework and quizzes. I do not have major adviser at current department in the first year.

Edited by sansanxia
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If you explain the situation the same way you explained it here, a reasonable adviser would probably understand your reasons for leaving. You're going to have to tell him anyways, because if you ask 3 other professors at the same school, he'll probably find out anyways.

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Actually, I disagree with kel. There is nothing that you have said so far that I would want to explain to any professor, especially not my advisor.

I'm not saying that wanting to be closer to one's fiance and feeling close to your cohort and other graduate students are not good reasons to want to transfer PhD programs. However, they are going to be perceived as somewhat unprofessional reasons to an advisor. He is going to want to hear that your interests have changed and that you feel like you would be a better fit there, because of the research going on at the other school. Or that they have specific resources there that you need or want to use in your research.

In all honesty, examine yourself first. You've only been apart for 1.5 months. Long-distance relationships are ALWAYS difficult in the beginning; it's not that they get any more fun, but they do get easier to deal with. It will be very difficult to get your advisor's support so early into the game, when you haven't even given the PhD program a game year to get adjusted and decide. The other thing is that you have to really take the time to decide whether you are willing to take the potential career hit you will take by transferring to a lower-ranked program that may not be as tight a fit for you.

I think every graduate student has to be willing to decide what they are willing to sacrifice and what they are not, and I don't judge any grad student for those decisions - as a person who has been in an LDR for much of my own relationship, I'm planning in tandem with my own fiance so that we are not living apart again. But, I think it takes careful planning and serious thought - stuff you may not be able to do in the first two months of your program when emotions are still high. So my advice would be to stick it out for a year and see if you still feel the same way. Get settled into your department (my cohort didn't seem very friendly at first either, until I got to know them), into your new city, into a rhythm of work. Your feelings may change and you may come to adore it.

If you are already decided on leaving - or once you do - here's my advice.

1) When you approach past professors, frame your decision in terms of career choices, not so much personal choices. You will get a better response and stronger support from your advisors if you do.

2) You will need support from at least one person in your current department. You may not have an advisor yet, but perhaps you should adopt an informal mentor or at least get to know one of the professors who teaches your classes. The department to which you are trying to apply is going to want to know how you are doing in your current department; they're going to want to be assured that you're not attempting to transfer because you are sinking in your current department. And for that, they're going to need at least one letter of recommendation from a current professor or advisor.

3) You will definitely need the support of your MS advisor. It will look suspicious to the new department if you don't have that, number one; and number two, going behind his back and getting three other recommendations may burn some bridges for you that you want to keep open. Academia is a small world and people know people. The professors you ask may assume that your old MS advisor already knows you are transferring and bring it up; if he doesn't know, he'll be embarrassed. So don't sidestep that one; come up with a really good and professional (not personal) explanation as to why you need to transfer, and then ask for his support.

I will say that there is the VERY real possibility that your advisor will not understand your decision, especially in terms of leaving a program he obviously thought was a good career fit for you to be closer to your partner just two months into it. He may perceive you as not committed enough to the pursuit of academia. That's why I insist that you come up with a professional, research-related reason that you want to transfer.

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Good advice you've been given. You don't want to inadvertently give off the idea that you aren't serious about your career path. I know it must be tough to be separated at the moment, but strongly consider the impact of your actions before you frame them as personal unhappiness and wanting to be closer to your fiance.

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Interesting points made here, and I definitely see how leaving for personal reasons could be seen as unprofessional by some. However there are surely some professors out there who would be much more understanding than others.

I have done two separate 4 month periods of long distance in my current relationship. Long distance is absolutely not for me and I couldn't stand knowing I would be away from my boyfriend for 5 years, with just the occasional visit. With that in mind I chose to go to grad school in the city where he works (but luckily for me it's one of the best schools in the country). Unfortunately you're a bit far in to be making abrupt changes without potential repercussions.

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1.You do not necessarily need anyone's support at your curret place, you have been there for just a few months, but you need your old recommenders write letters which tell that you are not faling. I transfered without anyone knowing my plans.

2. I would also recommend talking with your MS advisor but it really depends on your relationship with him how you frame the issue. I agree with teh consensus here emphasize the career aspect (too) not the personal.

3. If your fiancee feels the way you feel you should probably both make a new round of applications. If you did not get into her school last year why do you think you will get in this year? Fit matters beyond ranking. If yu both apply you can maximize the chances of getting in to the same place. If she is less willing to do that for you , than you for her -there is a problem.

4. I am not sure about your field(s). if it is research based you are fine. but if it is in teaching you will have the same problem when you will want to find a job. In that case one spouse can sometimes make a deal for both of them. And for that probably you are in a better position if you graduated from a higher ranked university.

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How many years will you be in coursework? Is your research done in a lab, or in the field or in writing? What are your program's residency requirements? Many programs, at least in my field, really only require residency for the first two years, if you're willing to give up teaching or adjunct somewhere in a new city.

If you think you could stick it out for a year or two, it might be possible to live in a different city (with your fiancee) and continue progress toward your degree.

I have a colleague who is in a long-distance relationship (11 hour drive). She is living here for one more year (her second year in the program), and then she will move back to live with her partner while she continues reading for her exams and working on her dissertation. Another friend at a different university is quite possibly going to do the same: her husband is currently interviewing for an industry job out of state, and if he gets it she wants to move with him and continue working on her exams and dissertations out of state.

In support of jullietmercredit's advice, I'll also note that the latter friend is still formulating a professional reason for her move—reasons why being in the new city will benefit her research and would be crucial—and not simply leaving it at, "my spouse is moving out-of-state and I want to write from a distance in order to be with him." It seems ridiculous, I know, but it is rather necessary.

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