Jump to content
LoveCoffee

Thinking of transferring/dropping out need advice

Recommended Posts

Hi, 

I am now almost in my third year PhD (becoming a candidate) and everything is going really well at school, however due to personal circumstances I am thinking of transferring or dropping out. My boyfriend lives in a different state and I am not sure if we will be able to maintain our relationship for another two years of my school (he has tried to move where I live however he has a company-specific visa and it is very difficult for him to move/switch jobs). Can anyone advise me how I should go about transferring? (Or is it even feasible?) I already have a dissertation topic and should be ready to defend my proposal in a few months...

Thank you for your input. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, if your program doesn't require you to be physically on campus after you advance to candidacy, the easiest solution would be to continue to be affiliated with your current university but write your dissertation remotely. If there are teaching requirements, maybe there is a way to pile them up in the coming semester and leave when you finish them. It would be important to have a supportive advisor if you are going to successfully do this. If there is a local university where you'll be and you can find a professor who would be willing to serve on your committee, that would help a lot in making sure you actually stay on track, because it can be easy to get lost when you're alone and away from your program. 

If you actually want to start over at a new program, I think it really would be starting over. I can't think of a program that would agree to award you a PhD when your entire coursework was done at a different program. Some might transfer some credits. Again, if you have connections with someone local, and especially if your advisor is willing to vouch for you that you are not leaving your program because of any academic difficulty, there might be an arrangement where you don't have to go through the normal application process and maybe you would be able to skip some of the coursework at the new program. Otherwise, there is a decent chance that you'll be treated just like any other applicant,* and then, if admitted, like any other first-year student with all the same requirements.

On a more personal note, you don't specify field or career goals, but if the goal is academia, the lack of (geographical) flexibility may make your chances of getting a job lower than they would otherwise be, possibly significantly so. If you are hoping for a non-academic job, this would be a good time to ask yourself whether a PhD is needed for the kinds of jobs you want, or whether an MA is sufficient. If an MA is sufficient, with two+ years of a graduate education, you may be able to "Master out" of the program and just get a job near your boyfriend. 

*Actually, at my program you would be at a disadvantage, they don't like to take students who are already in an advanced stage at another graduate program.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm sorry but throwing all that away to be closer to your significant other is just ridiculous. It would still be ridiculous if you were in undergrad, and it's even more insane to be contemplating this now that you're in the home stretch of your PhD. 

Cat guy is right. You can't simply "transfer." you'll lose everything you've worked hard for. The only options at this point is to either stick it out (best), Try to work remotely if possible (ok), or give up on your dream (just plain dumb). 

If it's meant to be, he'll wait. Seriously, don't throw away your career. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
50 minutes ago, charlemagne88 said:

I'm sorry but throwing all that away to be closer to your significant other is just ridiculous. It would still be ridiculous if you were in undergrad, and it's even more insane to be contemplating this now that you're in the home stretch of your PhD. 

I am of a similar mind, but I feel you could have come up with a way to say this without being a raging asshole. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, charlemagne88 said:

Cat guy is right.

What makes you think I'm a guy? 

I am also not sure why you think that you are in a position to judge someone whose life circumstances you don't know at all. There are better ways of conveying your *opinion* than calling someone's actions "ridiculous," "insane," or "dumb".  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
37 minutes ago, fuzzylogician said:

What makes you think I'm a guy? Are you?

I am also not sure why you think that you are in a position to judge someone whose life circumstances you don't know at all. There are better ways of conveying your *opinion* than calling someone's actions "ridiculous," "insane," or "dumb".  

perhaps you are right that I could've used better words to convey my opinion. Also, true I don't know the particulars but the person did post asking peoples opinion and my opinion will be the same regardless of the particulars. 

Edited by charlemagne88

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@charlemagne88 answer my question, I'll answer yours.

The OP did not in fact ask for your opinion about their choice. Moreover, your opinion is *not* "the hard truth". It is your opinion. What the OP did ask for is advice:

3 hours ago, megk86 said:

Can anyone advise me how I should go about transferring? (Or is it even feasible?) I already have a dissertation topic and should be ready to defend my proposal in a few months...

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I second fuzzylogician's advice on determining what you want as your long term career and personal goals. What is it that you value and do you need a PhD to get what you want out of life?

If you want to be able to continue your graduate work and also be closer to your SO, then I think the first option to try is fuzzy's suggestion to find a way to complete some or all of the remaining PhD work remotely. I know many people who have successfully done this. You definitely need your advisor's support for this. You'll have to ensure you can meet the teaching requirements (e.g. front-loading them as fuzzy suggested or confining them to one semester). Beyond that, you and your advisor can work out what is an acceptance ratio of time spent away from your school vs. time spent at your school. It can range from spending 95% of your time away and only returning for degree milestones, to something like 3 weeks out of every month away and 1 week back, or even just visiting your SO for 1 week every month (or 2 weeks every months) etc. 

You should still consider starting over at a new school, but it's up to you to determine whether it's worth it. 2 more years of long distance (or semi-long-distance if you can work something out) would be hard, but so is starting over again at a 5 year program. And, it is likely you will not be able to get into as competitive of a program the second time around (as fuzzy also said). Thinking about the long term is important here---ultimately it sounds like you and your SO would like to live and work in the same city. If you are in a good graduate program right now, staying in the program for another 2 years might not be very fun in the short term, but it could be the thing that will allow you both to achieve your long term goals. Also, at this point, you are 2 years away from earning a decent salary but going back to year 1 of grad school means you are reducing your earning potential. Does having a reduced income affect your ability to achieve your long term goals?

Of course, I don't know what your long term goals are---the above is just an example of why I think it's important to consider them when you consider transferring/starting over as one of your options! Good luck!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, megk86 said:

Can anyone advise me how I should go about transferring? (Or is it even feasible?) I already have a dissertation topic and should be ready to defend my proposal in a few months...

From everything you've said, it sounds like you're in the USA. If that's the case, then it's important to realize that most programs have a minimum amount of coursework that must be completed in residence (that is, on their campus). Because of that, it's unlikely that you'd just be able to start from the dissertation proposal and move forward from there. 

That said, there are other potential options aside from those already mentioned. Would it be possible for you to do an exchange where you're a visiting grad student at a different campus for a semester or year? Could you find and obtain a dissertation research or writing fellowship where you could choose where you want to do your work (e.g., ACLS Mellon, NSF DDRI, etc.)? (Obviously the possibilities for each of these vary from one field to the next but they are an option for some grad students depending on their field.) Is there a chance that you could conduct dissertation fieldwork/lab work on another campus that's in a location you prefer? None of these would require a formal transfer but they each could enable you to live near your SO and still get your degree from your current university.

Depending on your SO's job status and country of origin, there could be yet another option. Would it be possible for you to pursue your degree in your SO's home country/area? In Europe, it's much more common for students to be admitted with a proposal, do the dissertation (aka, thesis) and then graduate. Is going to school abroad in such a system an option for you? If you decide to go that route, you should look into getting some sort of terminal degree from your current program...

Best of luck! Please keep us posted. If you have more questions, I'm sure we'll be happy to answer them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@megk86 I think it is certainly possible for you to continue your relationship and your Ph.D., but doing so will require some compromises. You don't mention in your post exactly how far away your boyfriend is, but if he's within an 8-hour drive and/or flights are cheap between the two cities, it would be possible for you to stick it out until you advance to candidacy officially and then move to where he's living and commute in once in a while, as @rising_star and @TakeruK suggest. Of course, doing so would require you to start sending out feelers to your advisor(s) and committee members now to see if this is something that they would be amenable to, but I know several people in my program who started doing this starting in the 4th or 5th year of their program and have made it work. One woman that I know lives about 3 or 4 hours away and comes in about twice a month for a day or two to meet with her mentor. I myself am considering moving an hour away from my school to live with my partner after I get my proposal approved after quals, and then commuting in as infrequently as I can afterwards.

In sum, unless you're seriously feeling that completing the Ph.D. is not as important to you as being with your partner now, then I would stick the course and work to get closer together as soon as it's convenient if I were you. Transferring programs can be difficult or impossible depending on a variety of factors, and is best done earlier than proposal submission time if it is to be done at all. You risk losing the equivalent of three years' work if you are able to start over somewhere closer to your partner, and there's no guarantee that the advisor/institutional fit would be as good.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A lot of people have made some really good comments about the logistics of transferring/starting over at a new PhD program.

I do want to push up, though, that I think it's a perfectly valid choice to decide to start over your PhD or leave a PhD altogether to be closer to your significant other. It's not ridiculous or insane or a bad thing. To most people, there are many things that important to them in life - and there's nothing wrong with putting your relationships and personal life ahead of academics and career. Long distance is rough and grueling and for some people - not worth it!

Another thing you can consider, if you are considering leaving altogether, is taking a leave of absence for a year. Move to live with your boyfriend and see how it feels. You'll be able to decide with some experience under your belt to help you make the choice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.