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Transferring out of current PhD Program


aka4567

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Hi everyone! I am a late comer to this forum. I have been having this question in mind and a friend of mine suggested that I should post the question here to receive helpful feedback. I'm a PhD student in an R1 state school with intended focus on modern South Asian History. After my first year of study, I have completely changed the direction of my proposed research when I first applied to schools, from gender history to religious history. The problem I'm having is that my main adviser is the only person in my field at this school and we have a relatively sparse religious history faculty. Those who do focus on this subfield research nothing about my regional focus. During my first major research paper, I am basically on my own both in terms of sources and historiography (inquiring for information and advices from faculty in other places). I did receive constructive advices from my adviser and some others in the department, but most of them were very generic comments on my work. As soon as the semester ends, I'm more familiar with the historiography of this new realm of inquiry as I educate myself pretty much during the process, but I begin to worry a lot about the shape of my future dissertation. I realize that I do want to be in good hands and work with faculty that now matches my new interests. Transferring seems to me the most practical thing I can do right now and I did find faculty from other schools that I envision to work with.

 

I have made up my mind about the decision to transfer and planned to meet with my main adviser soon to discuss this. My biggest concern, however, is the application process. Will it be any different from when I first applied? Do I have to address my transferring issue in the statement of purpose? or I will be applying as a brand-new applicant? When I contact professors from the other schools, should I be upfront about the fact that I'm now in a PhD program and wish to transfer to a new program? or should I just apply as an MA student going for a new PhD program (I'm now in a BA-PhD track with an MA in between that I expected to obtain by the end of next year). I have been thinking about these questions and I wonder if any gradcafe members have gone through a similar process. Any of your inputs are much appreciated!

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You will probably need to get a terminal MA from your current institution then apply as an MA student.  I will say, that I have been in a similar situation (started doing history of medicine in a school with little to know faculty there, and an adviser to does religious history), and you can pull it off from your current institution.  And not everyone in your current institution will necissarily be as excited about you transfering as you are.  You do need to think carefully about how you handle the politics in your current institution because those are your letter writers.

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Thank you for the reply! So assuming then I will be applying as a MA student, my question is that should I not talk about the fact I was actually in a PhD-track program (not addressing it in my statement of purpose, sort of) or should I be upfront about it and just apply as other MA applicants? I do understand that departmental politics can really impact the later stages of my experiences in the program, so I'm trying to be as tactful and subtle about this as possible. However, I still need to sit down and have some serious transfer-out conversations with my advisers because they will be writing my letters. My only hope is that they will understand because if this trasferring works out, it will be extremely crucial to my historical training in the long run.

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Not sure, whether to mention it.  Does your current deparmtent have a stand alone masters or only PhD student.  You might not need to mention it if there are both masters and Ma/PhD students. 

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I agree with Riotbeard.  It works if you're in the MA/PhD program, not a direct PhD.

 

Know that your chances of a successful transfer will mainly depend on  your advisers' willingness to bat for you.

 

You might want to devise a conversation in a way that  transferring comes up as your adviser's idea, not yours.  I've heard that some advisers will sometimes challenge their first year advisees' interests as to whether or not they're compatible with them and their program and if not, the advisees might want to think about transferring to another program.  

 

You might want to focus on your changing interest and see where the conversation goes.  Your adviser's job is to guide you.  You should also present evidence of your research on the university's current resources.

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I respectfully disagree with TMP's guidance on how to frame the conversation with your adviser. IMO, the proposed tactic could come across as an effort at manipulation even if it is skillfully executed.

 

I recommend that you approach the topic from the perspective of two people in a room putting their heads together to figure out a plan of action that gets you where you want to go. For all you know, your adviser and others in the department could be having back channel conversations on how best to support you (including calling and emailing professors at other departments).

 

My $0.02/YMMV

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I would say you go honest and start with your problem change and research and ask your adviser what he/she thinks is best, you should even propose transfer, but I wouldn't frame it as I want to transfer, so much how do we solve this problem.  If you really can't complete a dissertation there, it should be too awkward...

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks everyone for your suggestions! I do think that sitting down and be straightforward with my adviser will always be the best way to go about doing this. 

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