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Thread: Thoughts on transferring PhD programs?

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    Thoughts on transferring PhD programs?

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    With application results coming in, what do people think is best to do if you get into a safety school, but not one of your top choices? Does it make sense to attend the safety, but re-apply to the top choice in future years? Or is that too much a risk of burning bridges because you will need to ask for LORs from the people at the safety school?

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    Re: Thoughts on transferring PhD programs?

    Usually that happens due to unforeseen circumstance, like you didn't have the level of support you expected from the school, or your advisor moved. I don't think attending a lower rank program with the goal of moving up is a good strategy, and could be frown upon. You can instead apply to some pre-doc programs (if you are a domestic student), or work as a full-time RA for a year. Your options are a bit more limited if you are an international student, but RA opportunities are still available in non-US schools.

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    Re: Thoughts on transferring PhD programs?

    I was previously thinking about this question. But it does mean that you get into at least one funded PhD program!

    I am currently in the process of waiting for the only interview left for me which I initially considered as my "safety" school coz I only truly like that one (that only one) professor's research at the school. (the school that my advisor didn't even consider that I would apply. and I'm sorry that I might have disappointed my advisor.)
    I applied to some social science master programs this app season but those programs do not give early notice and I'll have to wait until April to know the results. (keep my fingers crossed)

    Don't lose hope, mate! everything is possible (coz you haven't received confirmed rejections)!
    Last edited by tad2020; 02-15-2020 at 07:11 AM.

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    Re: Thoughts on transferring PhD programs?

    I know of a handful of people who have transferred programs. In every case but one (following their advisor to a new school), they had to completely start over again. Honestly, I think you might be better off further developing your pipeline/improving test scores and applying again next year if you are not happy with the program that accepted you. The first couple of years of the PhD program are HARD and I couldn't imagine willingly subjecting myself to that again just to go to a higher ranked program unless there were some extenuating circumstances (losing funding or being asked to leave the first program).

    I echo phd2020's advice of looking into predoc programs as well. That was my plan if I didn't gain admission into a PhD program the first round. Also, many disciplines offer pre-doc symposiums at their conferences so you may want to look into those to better develop your network.

    The reality is that pretty much any R1 PhD program is going to be a "reach" judging by conventional metrics like acceptance rates. While test scores can get you through the initial rounds, there only needs to be 2 or 3 applicants with a better profile to knock you down to the waitlist in many cases. The process itself is also a bit more arbitrary. You can have a great profile but if your research interests only overlap with one or two professors who don't want to take on new students then there's a good chance that you may not get an offer. You should count any acceptance as a win!

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    Re: Thoughts on transferring PhD programs?

    Thanks for the useful input, everyone. Are there any links for these predoc programs? I'm not really finding them on Google except for one at NYU, which seems quite competitive.

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    Re: Thoughts on transferring PhD programs?

    Transferring is quite rare, and I've only heard of it in two cases: 1. The advisor moves, 2. Some sort of life-and-death family emergency

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    Re: Thoughts on transferring PhD programs?

    Quote Originally Posted by instajar View Post
    Thanks for the useful input, everyone. Are there any links for these predoc programs? I'm not really finding them on Google except for one at NYU, which seems quite competitive.
    I think you can Google "pre-doctoral fellowship" to find those. NYU is one of the first ones, but there are many others. For example:
    Ross: Bridges Program | Michigan Ross.
    WashU: Pre-Doctoral Research Fellows | WashU Olin Business School
    INSEAD: Pre-Doctoral Research Associate position (Strategy) | INSEAD (usually listed as a job, find one that you see fit)
    Columbia: Predoctoral Fellows Program | Programs
    Stanford: Research Fellows Program | Stanford Graduate School of Business
    NBER: https://www.nber.org/jobs/employment_opp.html (for Econ, which I think would be a fit for strategy as well)
    NBER also has a listing of RA/Pre-doc jobs not at NBER: https://www.nber.org/jobs/nonnberjobs.html

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    Re: Thoughts on transferring PhD programs?

    Quote Originally Posted by phd2020 View Post
    I think you can Google "pre-doctoral fellowship" to find those. NYU is one of the first ones, but there are many others. For example:
    Ross: Bridges Program | Michigan Ross.
    WashU: Pre-Doctoral Research Fellows | WashU Olin Business School
    INSEAD: Pre-Doctoral Research Associate position (Strategy) | INSEAD (usually listed as a job, find one that you see fit)
    Columbia: Predoctoral Fellows Program | Programs
    Stanford: Research Fellows Program | Stanford Graduate School of Business
    NBER: https://www.nber.org/jobs/employment_opp.html (for Econ, which I think would be a fit for strategy as well)
    NBER also has a listing of RA/Pre-doc jobs not at NBER: https://www.nber.org/jobs/nonnberjobs.html
    Oh that's really interesting. I wish I had known about these earlier, since I think most of the deadlines have already passed. Thank you!

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    Re: Thoughts on transferring PhD programs?

    Quote Originally Posted by instajar View Post
    Oh that's really interesting. I wish I had known about these earlier, since I think most of the deadlines have already passed. Thank you!
    Most of those have deadlines around March 1 to March 30, so you can still definitely apply. That's the usual deadline for pre-doc. The only one on the list I couldn't find a deadline is WashU, but I think they are still accepting applications. Look out for Harvard's "research associate" listings around the end of February or early March as well.

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    Re: Thoughts on transferring PhD programs?

    Quote Originally Posted by phd2020 View Post
    Most of those have deadlines around March 1 to March 30, so you can still definitely apply. That's the usual deadline for pre-doc. The only one on the list I couldn't find a deadline is WashU, but I think they are still accepting applications. Look out for Harvard's "research associate" listings around the end of February or early March as well.
    It looks like NYU's was due Dec 31st, the same time as PhD applications. I also couldn't find a deadline for WashU.

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