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re-applying to a new program?


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I've been debating this issue for a year now and decided to finally get it out of my head and get some feedback....

I'm in the 2nd year of a (fully-funded) PhD program in history at a not-so-prestigious school in a not-well-ranked program. Though my progress has been good, I'm not too happy with the program. My department only has 2 faculty members working on my field (one of them is my supervisor), and i'm their only grad student, so I don't really feel like I have a cohort or an academic community in which I belong. It's sad because when I do get a chance to engage with researchers - students and faculty - working on my field in conferences or other contexts, It's a lot of fun and really helpful for me academically. Another concern I have is about getting a job after graduating from this not so prestigious university.

When I applied, I got an offer from my current school and from another program where the funding was not so great, so I ended up choosing this program (where the funding is better). In hindsight, I think the other program would have been better since the department was a better fit, but I didn't think it was such an important factor. 

Anyway, I was thinking of applying to two or three programs in top-tier universities in the US for fall 2016. I was wondering if anyone has any kind of experience with that - how feasible is it that I would be offered admission into a new program? on the positive side, my research interests and dissertation ideas are much more solid right now, so I think I could write a better SOP. I was also awarded some fellowships in my program, went to conferences etc': i have more accomplishments to show. on the other hand, I'm not sure how an admission's committee would look at such an application.

Obviously I would do it only if i'd have my current supervisor's support, so I need to talk to her. 

Any insights or advice you might have is really appreciated!




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The tricky part for this is that it's a leap of faith. 

You generally have to decide that you're leaving your current institution, make peace with your advisor(s) and get them supportive enough to write a letter. 

And then apply to new schools. 

It's not kosher, and generally will go very poorly if you apply while still a student at your current school, without them knowing that you're intending to leave. Admissions committee's will see that you're a student at your school, and I know cases where faculty at the new schools have then contacted advisors at the current school to ask what was going on. Without full support (or at least grudging support) from your current institution, you'll throw up huge red flags from the places you're applying. 

Another option, if your school allows it, is to try to switch to an MA track and finish by the end of the year. Then you'll get something out of the experience at your current school, and it makes a clean(er) break leaving.

Additionally, while I think your comments about getting a job are valid, I wouldn't necessarily expect another school to have the same vibrant intellectual community (especially in your sub-field) that you see at conferences. Sure, the cohort will be larger, but there are lots of stories on these forums of people being quite disappointed with the lack of intellectual connection within their cohort. Some are great, some not-so-great, but hoping you'll have a wonderful group of peers to share ideas with and bounce things off of isn't always what works out.

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Thanks Eigen and Truther.

I would not do it unless I have the support of my current adviser, and obviously wouldn't apply without telling them. 

I already have an MA from a different school, so trying to "master out" isn't really relevant. I wonder whether a PhD committee would see my reasons (poor departmental fit, mostly) as valid. 

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You definitely have to be able to make a clean break, which is obviously scary as you could end up not getting into any grad programs and then have to plan a different future and/or reapply again. It is totally possible to switch programs and I would argue it is "kosher" as long as the reasons are strong (such as no/poor funding, bad fit, faculty member leaving, etc.). 

We have people in my program who were accepted and have previously been in another doctoral program.

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