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ciliegia

Giving reasons for seeking transfer in SOP

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I am a PhD student currently working on applications to a few other PhD programs. The reasons I wish to transfer are a mixture of personal and academic (about 50-50). Should I mention that I have personal reasons to leave the area I live in now and move to the new area (thus highlighting that I am not leaving because I am not academically fit or don't get along with my colleagues) or should I focus only on the academic reasons (and not raise a possible red flag about personal issues interfering with my work)? Thoughts? What about at a possible interview stage?

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when i come to grad school, an older student told me that they are three things you should consider when applying to grad school 

1. Location 

2. your colleges 

3. your adviser ( PI) 

 

If you are happy with two out of the three things most of the year then you are good. if not then you either need to adapt to your environment or change. I took that advise when I was leaving my previous grad school because i was not happy with my location or my adviser. so it depends on what you don't like about where you leave. I would mention it and then state how the new places you are applying to will be different. 

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I am a PhD student currently working on applications to a few other PhD programs. The reasons I wish to transfer are a mixture of personal and academic (about 50-50). Should I mention that I have personal reasons to leave the area I live in now and move to the new area (thus highlighting that I am not leaving because I am not academically fit or don't get along with my colleagues) or should I focus only on the academic reasons (and not raise a possible red flag about personal issues interfering with my work)? Thoughts? What about at a possible interview stage?

 

Are you going to earn a master's degree at your current institution?

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Whether or not I earn a master's degree depends on when I could transfer (if it works out). Might be yes, might be no.

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Whether or not I earn a master's degree depends on when I could transfer (if it works out). Might be yes, might be no.

 

Your SOP might go over better if you're going to get a master's at your current school. Then, you could center your comments around why you want to go to the next school and less on why you want to leave your present one.

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I think you should mention both personal and academic reasons for choosing the school you are applying to. I really agree with Sigaba's advice to keep the discussion focussed on how the new school is a good fit instead of discussing why the previous school is not a good fit for you.

 

I had a similar short paragraph (3 sentences) in my SOP because I was finishing a MSc program in Canada and applying to PhD programs in the US. After talking to US researchers, many of them did not realise that almost all Canadians must do a terminal MSc before applying to PhD programs (which are shorter but the total time in grad school is the same), so I decided to briefly explain this in 2 sentences. I also felt the need to add the 3rd sentence for the personal reason (did not apply to US schools after undergrad because I was not yet married to my spouse so she would not have been able to come with me). I don't think this was absolutely necessary but I wanted to signal that I have non-academic priorities. But I don't know if it really would have changed anything.

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I would say mention it briefly in your personal statement or elsewhere in the written application where it fits best.  At the interview stage, I would certainly bring it up.  You want to convince the faculty at the program you want to join that 1) you want to be at their program and 2) that you are dropping out of your current program for the right reason.  

 

Dropping out of another PhD program can look bad, but if it is because it's not a good fit for you personally or you don't like the research available to you, then that's understandable.  It sounds like you have both of those, so I don't see that being a strike against you in the application.  If the faculty hear that you really like the research in the department and that you would like living in the area, that's a plus.

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I think it depends on what the personal reasons are.  Personally, I think the majority of emphasis should be on the academic reasons.

 

I think personal reasons should only be mentioned if those personal issues will be solved where you move, and are related to family closeness.  For example, if the school you're trying to transfer into is located nearby an elderly parent or grandparent you need to care for - that might be relevant, although you do then raise the issue of elder care and how much time that will take out of your schedule and may introduce unconscious biases on the part of the professors.  But if you want to move because your university is in the middle of nowhere and you are bored on the weekends, or because you like to hike and your university is in a large city - then no, I wouldn't mention this in a statement.  It's irrelevant.

 

I think it's safer to focus on your statement on your academic and professional reasons for moving on and maybe mention personal reasons, if they are compelling, in an interview or in-person visit.

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