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Thread: Switching Programs?

  1. #1
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    Switching Programs?

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    So I am finishing my first year at a PhD program. I chose this school largely to work with a particular professor who is leaving to work at the Fed at the end of this school year. I am interested also in poverty which no one at my school does. I was interviewed and waitlisted at my favorite program, and have wished I applied to several others focussed on policy and poverty. Is it worth considering moving programs and if so, how would I go about this?

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    Re: Switching Programs?

    Worth considering, yes. Easy, no.

    It will help enormously if you have letters from faculty at your current program saying that (a) you are doing well and (b) endorsing the reason you want to move.

    It is likely that you will have to start all over again at a new program, although some may let you test out of some requirements.

  3. #3
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    Re: Switching Programs?

    How would I start this? Do I go to the program director of my current program or contact those of the few universities I'm considering?

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    Re: Switching Programs?

    Start with either the director of the current program or a faculty member that you are friendly with. It may be too late to do this for next year though.

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    Re: Switching Programs?

    I wanted to add one more comment to this thread from the perspective of a 3rd year PhD student. I agree it is worth considering moving in your case, but you should also ask yourself what you expect to gain from switching programs. In terms of coursework, you might have better access to 2nd year courses in the fields you like. But this aspect is a little overrated, because 2nd year courses are often just surveys of the literature (and you can get just as much out of replicating a famous paper in the literature yourself). If they are more methodological (so you get a skill out of the course) you can often just audit a course at another department. Given the virtual format that has become common during the pandemic this has become even easier to do (I audited a nice structural labor class and it was awesome). These two facts make the coursework value from switching much lower.

    The other reason to switch, which seems to be your main reason, is the connections/advisors. While this is a stronger argument, if your advisor leaves you can continue to have them on your committee in many cases (even if unofficially). Even if they are going to the fed, you can often keep them on as an unofficial advisor. I have a few faculty I speak to at other schools and they have always been willing to give me advice/direct me where I need to go. I also think that having an exact match with the research interests of your advisor is overrated for two reasons. First, joint publications with a senior faculty member are heavily discounted. Second RA work is mainly useful only indirectly, be providing you skills/references/connections. You can RA with people only loosely related to your field of interest and still benefit because many of the tools used (especially in applied) are very similar across subfields.

    So I would recommend you seriously consider how you can make do at your current program. If there is no one in your field (if you have no applied micro faculty at all) then that is one thing. But if there are faculty in applied but they do not exactly study poverty I would think carefully whether switching (which has pretty large costs) is best for you.

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