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I’m currently a first-year PhD student in institution A who also holds an MA degree in Philosophy. During my application season this year, my final decision was between institution A and institution B. I was slightly inclined to choose A over B. However, B has a very flexible policy of credit transfer which was very attractive to me. I then asked the DGA at A whether I could request some credit transfer from my previous institution. The DGS told me that my request needs the approval of the whole department but he/she thought that it was highly likely that it would be fully approved. In addition, the credit transfer is not something unprecedented. Based on what he/she told me, I ended up choosing A.

I didn’t hear back from them on the issue for almost five months. Several days ago, the DGS told me that they cannot grant my request. If that information had been available to me earlier, I should have ended up choosing B over A. Given that I have already enrolled in A, what could I do? Any advice would be appreciated.

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12 hours ago, Franzkafka said:

Any advice would be appreciated.

Although you're disappointed with the response you received, in the long run you may be better off where you are without the credit transfer.

Based upon my own experience--I "transferred" from one program to another--it's my guess that your department at A wants to make sure that you're taught to their standards rather than the school where you earned your MA. 

I recommend that you stay where you are and use the opportunity to deepen your knowledge and to avoid "double dipping" on the work you did at your previous school.

Insofar as communicating your sense of disappointment with the timeliness of the decision, I recommend that you think carefully before saying anything. In a perfect world, you should have gotten the information sooner. In the Ivory Tower, your discontent could get you read as someone looking to game the rules.

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1 hour ago, Sigaba said:

Although you're disappointed with the response you received, in the long run you may be better off where you are without the credit transfer.

Based upon my own experience--I "transferred" from one program to another--it's my guess that your department at A wants to make sure that you're taught to their standards rather than the school where you earned your MA. 

I recommend that you stay where you are and use the opportunity to deepen your knowledge and to avoid "double dipping" on the work you did at your previous school.

Insofar as communicating your sense of disappointment with the timeliness of the decision, I recommend that you think carefully before saying anything. In a perfect world, you should have gotten the information sooner. In the Ivory Tower, your discontent could get you read as someone looking to game the rules.

Thanks for the reply. The reason why I want to avoid taking more courses is that (for some special reason) I have already spent five years in grad school and taken 20+ grad courses, so I really want to speed up. 

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I understand the frustration. I've spent 4 years in grad school with another 8 years in a dead-end low-level part of my field. After completing the degrees all I was is to jump up into jobs I'm academically qualified for, but @Sigaba is right. Every person you're talking to right now is a future professional connection and/or networking opportunity. If there was something you can do, that's different. But as it is, it would come off, at best, as immature.

 

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11 hours ago, _kita said:

I understand the frustration. I've spent 4 years in grad school with another 8 years in a dead-end low-level part of my field. After completing the degrees all I was is to jump up into jobs I'm academically qualified for, but @Sigaba is right. Every person you're talking to right now is a future professional connection and/or networking opportunity. If there was something you can do, that's different. But as it is, it would come off, at best, as immature.

 

Thanks for the reply. To clarify, I don't intend to do anything immature. But I wonder if it's worthwhile to apply out?

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11 hours ago, Franzkafka said:

Thanks for the reply. To clarify, I don't intend to do anything immature. But I wonder if it's worthwhile to apply out?

When you say "apply out," do you mean apply to different PhD programs? Considering that you're concerned with time to completion, I can't imagine shifting to another program (with all the adjustment that entails) would somehow help speed things along. Switching PhD programs based on this one factor alone seems a bit crazy, assuming you don't have other significant complaints about your department.

FYI: there's nothing stopping you from making progress on your own. What are your program's qualifying exam requirements? Since you've already taken a significant amount of coursework, I imagine at least some of the work is review. Can you get a head start on putting together your lists and assembling your committee? In my department, there are always a couple enterprising individuals (many of whom come in w/ MAs) that take the QEs early. 

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34 minutes ago, hj2012 said:

When you say "apply out," do you mean apply to different PhD programs? Considering that you're concerned with time to completion, I can't imagine shifting to another program (with all the adjustment that entails) would somehow help speed things along. Switching PhD programs based on this one factor alone seems a bit crazy, assuming you don't have other significant complaints about your department.

FYI: there's nothing stopping you from making progress on your own. What are your program's qualifying exam requirements? Since you've already taken a significant amount of coursework, I imagine at least some of the work is review. Can you get a head start on putting together your lists and assembling your committee? In my department, there are always a couple enterprising individuals (many of whom come in w/ MAs) that take the QEs early. 

Thanks. The basic idea is that I have to spend another 5+ years if I choose to stay at my current program. If I transfer to another program which allows me to transfer some credits, then it seems that I will also spend 5+ years in grad school. Though the completion time will be the same, there will be a significant difference if I can end up in a better program. In addition, my current program does not allow me to do many interdisciplinary work in other departments, which drives my crazy.

 

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59 minutes ago, Franzkafka said:

Thanks. The basic idea is that I have to spend another 5+ years if I choose to stay at my current program. If I transfer to another program which allows me to transfer some credits, then it seems that I will also spend 5+ years in grad school. Though the completion time will be the same, there will be a significant difference if I can end up in a better program. In addition, my current program does not allow me to do many interdisciplinary work in other departments, which drives my crazy.

Something to keep in mind, another program may "agree to transfer credits" and then do the same exact thing this program did. While a school has a transfer policy, they individually evaluate each class to see if it is "exactly equivalent" to the class you have taken. You may end up applying for 3-4 classes (or more), think you'll get transfer credit, and then only have 1 class transferred in. It sounds like your current program did exactly this. While it's a frustrating process to go through, it is common enough that you'll likely experience something similar to this with any future program too. You can see if the admissions committee with check your transcript for transferrable credits, but most won't really a thorough job of it until you're accepted. In short, I don't suggest planning your academic decision around transfer credit.

As for your other concern, if you decide to transfer for interdisciplinary work, make certain to really screen all programs with scrutiny. Talk to students in the programs regarding cross-collaboration. Even then, you won't really get a great feel for it until you are in another program as it often changes based on the specific research lab, faculty member, or even cohort personalities.

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5 hours ago, _kita said:

Something to keep in mind, another program may "agree to transfer credits" and then do the same exact thing this program did. While a school has a transfer policy, they individually evaluate each class to see if it is "exactly equivalent" to the class you have taken. You may end up applying for 3-4 classes (or more), think you'll get transfer credit, and then only have 1 class transferred in. It sounds like your current program did exactly this. While it's a frustrating process to go through, it is common enough that you'll likely experience something similar to this with any future program too. You can see if the admissions committee with check your transcript for transferrable credits, but most won't really a thorough job of it until you're accepted. In short, I don't suggest planning your academic decision around transfer credit.

As for your other concern, if you decide to transfer for interdisciplinary work, make certain to really screen all programs with scrutiny. Talk to students in the programs regarding cross-collaboration. Even then, you won't really get a great feel for it until you are in another program as it often changes based on the specific research lab, faculty member, or even cohort personalities.

Thx. You are absolutely right. Those factors really should be taken into consideration. But I think it does not hurt if I try to reapply. Anyway, I can just stay in my current program if things do not turn out better. 

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23 hours ago, Franzkafka said:

Thanks. The basic idea is that I have to spend another 5+ years if I choose to stay at my current program. If I transfer to another program which allows me to transfer some credits, then it seems that I will also spend 5+ years in grad school. Though the completion time will be the same, there will be a significant difference if I can end up in a better program. In addition, my current program does not allow me to do many interdisciplinary work in other departments, which drives my crazy.

 

If you choose to reapply, I would definitely think strategically and tread carefully. It will likely be difficult for you to gain admission to "a better program" without a letter of recommendation from your current school attesting that you are not leaving due to your inability to flourish in doctoral-level work. Staying in your current program may become more difficult -- as you very well might strain relationships -- if they hear that you are trying to leave. I wouldn't take the decision to reapply so lightly.

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I feel your pain so much. I have two master's degrees, one interdisciplinary, one in philosophy, both with almost all the coursework in philosophy. As I am in Canada, I figured out recently that I have completed more philosophy courses than their phd students (since MA + phd in Canada = less courses than two MAs). I know my AOI well, have published a paper, and while I am an immature scholar for all intents and purposes, I still navigate myself fairly independently and find the coursework draining, to say the least. 

If you really really want to take less coursework, apply to Canadian schools. Its not uncommon for unis here to only require 5 courses for a phd. (U of T  may be different because they compete with the US so heavily) Its quite possible to do the phd in 4 and a half years. And in Canada you contact potential supervisors directly, making the admissions process somewhat less arbitrary. 

But then you may join the unemployed philosopher ranks that way, as the placement record in Canada is even worse, I'm afraid., probably especially for Americans. This too is my predicament right now. I much prefer Canada, but the better job placements leads me to the States.

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8 hours ago, Neither Here Nor There said:

I feel your pain so much. I have two master's degrees, one interdisciplinary, one in philosophy, both with almost all the coursework in philosophy. As I am in Canada, I figured out recently that I have completed more philosophy courses than their phd students (since MA + phd in Canada = less courses than two MAs). I know my AOI well, have published a paper, and while I am an immature scholar for all intents and purposes, I still navigate myself fairly independently and find the coursework draining, to say the least. 

If you really really want to take less coursework, apply to Canadian schools. Its not uncommon for unis here to only require 5 courses for a phd. (U of T  may be different because they compete with the US so heavily) Its quite possible to do the phd in 4 and a half years. And in Canada you contact potential supervisors directly, making the admissions process somewhat less arbitrary. 

But then you may join the unemployed philosopher ranks that way, as the placement record in Canada is even worse, I'm afraid., probably especially for Americans. This too is my predicament right now. I much prefer Canada, but the better job placements leads me to the States.

Thanks so much for the reply which is absolutely helpful. I will definitely consider transferring to Canada. Actually, I'm not American. I just came to the States for study. So the placement record is not that important to me. 

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10 hours ago, Neither Here Nor There said:

I feel your pain so much. I have two master's degrees, one interdisciplinary, one in philosophy, both with almost all the coursework in philosophy. As I am in Canada, I figured out recently that I have completed more philosophy courses than their phd students (since MA + phd in Canada = less courses than two MAs). I know my AOI well, have published a paper, and while I am an immature scholar for all intents and purposes, I still navigate myself fairly independently and find the coursework draining, to say the least. 

If you really really want to take less coursework, apply to Canadian schools. Its not uncommon for unis here to only require 5 courses for a phd. (U of T  may be different because they compete with the US so heavily) Its quite possible to do the phd in 4 and a half years. And in Canada you contact potential supervisors directly, making the admissions process somewhat less arbitrary. 

But then you may join the unemployed philosopher ranks that way, as the placement record in Canada is even worse, I'm afraid., probably especially for Americans. This too is my predicament right now. I much prefer Canada, but the better job placements leads me to the States.

The PhD programs with which I'm most familiar in Canada all require around 6 courses, plus whatever other requirements there are (comps, logic and language, prospectus, etc.). Similarly, my MA was six courses plus a thesis; two-year non-thesis MAs have more courses, of course. Remember, however, that an honours Bachelor's in Canada is typically 20-22 courses, compared to around 10 for most American institutions. And since it's still common here for students to get a Master's degree before the PhD, that means that they've been through a lot of courses, even if they take fewer as PhD students (which I'm not sure they actually do).

I'm also not sure what you mean by 'contact potential supervisors directly'. You certainly can do this, as you can in the US, but it doesn't make any real difference to the outcome. At least not officially, and it's certainly not the norm to do so. It's not like the UK or some European countries, where admission is closely tied to supervisor say-so/grants.

 

AS for the OP: If time to degree is really that big a concern for you, then I'd forget about transferring and just buckle down, get my work done, and start working to cultivate relationships outside my department. Set your sights on spending some time as a visiting student somewhere really nice and fancy, figure out what you need to do to get that funded, and reach out to the people with whom you'd like to work. The most important part of the PhD is just getting it. It's (at least in theory) the start of your research career, not its culmination. Just get it, and position yourself so that you'll be market-ready when it's all over: pubs in hand, some teaching experience, at least one external letter, a postdoc proposal that's ready to go, etc.

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On 9/25/2017 at 12:14 PM, maxhgns said:

The PhD programs with which I'm most familiar in Canada all require around 6 courses, plus whatever other requirements there are (comps, logic and language, prospectus, etc.). Similarly, my MA was six courses plus a thesis; two-year non-thesis MAs have more courses, of course. Remember, however, that an honours Bachelor's in Canada is typically 20-22 courses, compared to around 10 for most American institutions. And since it's still common here for students to get a Master's degree before the PhD, that means that they've been through a lot of courses, even if they take fewer as PhD students (which I'm not sure they actually do).

I'm also not sure what you mean by 'contact potential supervisors directly'. You certainly can do this, as you can in the US, but it doesn't make any real difference to the outcome. At least not officially, and it's certainly not the norm to do so. It's not like the UK or some European countries, where admission is closely tied to supervisor say-so/grants.

 

AS for the OP: If time to degree is really that big a concern for you, then I'd forget about transferring and just buckle down, get my work done, and start working to cultivate relationships outside my department. Set your sights on spending some time as a visiting student somewhere really nice and fancy, figure out what you need to do to get that funded, and reach out to the people with whom you'd like to work. The most important part of the PhD is just getting it. It's (at least in theory) the start of your research career, not its culmination. Just get it, and position yourself so that you'll be market-ready when it's all over: pubs in hand, some teaching experience, at least one external letter, a postdoc proposal that's ready to go, etc.

Yes, I agree with what you said. At my university, a phd is 5 courses, but I do not know that many phds are 6 courses, some even 9 (U  of A may be 9). But ever bit helps; I'd take 6 courses over the 10 or 12 in the States. And yes, non-Canadian readers should know that a Canadian phd is slightly shorter ( but only slightly), because many if not most successful applications have an honours BA and a master's (and master's with a thesis at that).

I don't mean send supervisors a research proposal, but I would consider a 2-sentence email. I recently sent an email about a funding question to a graduate coordinator or department chair, and the chair put me in contact with a potential supervisor. In another case, I had emailed one prof, and as he had retired recently, he inadvertently put me in contact with another professor, at which point a conversation was sparked and a prof said he'd love to supervisor the project. This might not be the best approach, however. Maybe a random application is better. But it is acceptable to send a short email. It could save you a $100 application if the prof is saying he isn't taking any new students.

Edited by Neither Here Nor There
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On 9/24/2017 at 9:14 PM, maxhgns said:

The PhD programs with which I'm most familiar in Canada all require around 6 courses, plus whatever other requirements there are (comps, logic and language, prospectus, etc.).

Oops. I meant 6 per year for two years. Although as you can see below, I was only sort of right in my intent:

 

Alberta: 9

Toronto: 6 (4-year PhD), and 12 (5-year PhD)

UBC: 8 (w/ Master's), and 10 (no Master's)

McGill: 9-12 (depending on the inividual student's background)

Western: 7 (w/ Master's), 12 (no Master's)

Calgary: 6 (w/ Master's), 12 (no Master's)

Queen's: 6

Waterloo: 6

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On 9/28/2017 at 5:27 PM, Franzkafka said:

Update: Finally, my program "approved" my request for credit transfer. But I can transfer no more than one course from my previous institution. Sounds funny. Don't know what they are thinking exactly.

It's not unusual for programs that do accept transfer credits to only credit a class or two. It's not really in anyone's interests to have students ploughing through super-fast and pre-satisfying the bulk of the distribution requirements. Writing skills and philosophical knowledge need time and practice to develop.

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