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Re-applying while in a program?


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So, I was accepted to my safety school with a great funding package. There are two drawbacks, however. While I will be working with some interesting people, there is no faculty member who specializes in environmental history--which is what I want to focus on. Also, it's certainly not a top tier program, although it is possible to get a job coming out of it (or at least it has been in the past).

For those reasons, I'm considering re-applying this year to try to get into a better program with an environmental historian on the faculty. I'm interested to know what other peoples' thoughts are on the best way to go about this. Should I let the programs I'm re-applying to know that I'm already enrolled in a PhD program at a different university? I think I've decided that I should be honest with the advisor I've signed on to work with, but would you tell your advisor if you were applying to a different program?

Thanks in advance.

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it depends.

if you're in an MA/PhD program, i think your best bet would be to wait until you've fulfilled the MA requirements and then apply to other PhD programs. while you may still ruffle some feathers or burn some bridges, leaving a PhD program after the MA requirements to go elsewhere to finish isn't completely unheard of. programs differ, but that generally means you'd spend two years at your safety school, so you'd be reapplying next fall instead of this fall.

i haven't done this myself so i can't recommend when or how to tell your adviser, but i would say that you should definitely tell him or her at some point in the application process. your adviser is investing time and effort into you and it would be incredibly uncouth and borderline insulting to say, "hey, so i got into a different school and i'm leaving now." if you can explain to your adviser that you really want to go to a program with an environmental historian in the faculty, he/she won't take it too personally that you're planning to leave. but don't blindside your adviser. also, if you take my advice and wait until you've fulfilled your MA requirements, your current adviser would make an excellent reference to other programs, provided he or she isn't too miffed that you want to leave.

if you've already got an MA, i'd probably recommend just staying put. the admissions cycle next year will likely look same as it did this past year. the economy won't magically recover in the next 6 months and there will be plenty of otherwise qualified students reapplying in the fall after getting rejected this past cycle. at least you got into a safety school, some others weren't as fortunate. odds are that your first year of courses and/or your comps at the PhD level will not transfer into another PhD program, making all the work you'll be doing in the coming year somewhat fruitless.

instead, try looking for an environmental historian you'd love to work with and start the process of bringing him or her in as an outside adviser on your dissertation. some historians are more willing to do this than others and some departments facilitate this better than others, but it's definitely possible and you'll still get that expertise you're looking for.

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