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Thread: Is it common for students from low ranked Phd program transferring to high ranked?

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    Wink Is it common for students from low ranked Phd program transferring to high ranked?

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    I found that it is terribly hard to get in any top 10 phd program...
    especially like MIT...
    I would like to ask if I can first get in a lower rank,let say 10-25th Econ Phd program in US...then apply to top 5 or even top 10 after I got a master two years later???

    Is it easier?? Is it harder? Is it Common?
    Any opinion about this option.? I know that most phd does not intend to recruit students for MA...but for phd...
    The thing is....if I dont tell....

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    I know there were some isolated success stories (not in the top 10), but this is not common, so I wouldn't count on it too much. You probably need to be better than the rest of your class. You probably need to obtain letters of recommendation from current professors, which seems awkward. In fact, don't ask, just go ahead and try.. Just make sure you have a contingency plan (e.g. you take the coursework and research at the top 25 program seriously and feel comfortable working there to the end of degree program if you don't succeed to transfer). Note that in most cases you would have to retake a whole bunch of courses unless you can pass the prelims.

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    I think once you are in the lower ranked program you will change your mind. I disappointed when I didn't get into a top 15 school. My school is ranked about 25. There are about 30 people in my year and I told myself that If i was in the top 5 that I would try to transfer. I would honestly put myself closer to the bottom 5 now after being here for a few months. I have an undergrad degree in math (although I did take some weak classes), and I found myself to be really under prepared. I'm not saying that you won't be as smart as the other students, but a lot of the foreign students have ridiculous computational skills. I went from being disappointed in going to my school to feeling lucky. Unless you are 1) abnormally gifted or 2) very well prepared, it will be hard for you to rise to the top of your class. Sorry to be a little negative, but I just wanted to give you an idea of how strong the students are at not top schools. My advice is to get a masters in math if you really want to get into a top school (that is if you don't feel like you will get in currently).

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    i know 2 people who change schools from top20 to top3
    first - Rutgers-Wharton
    second MSU-Harvard

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    Quote Originally Posted by Terd Ferguson View Post
    I think once you are in the lower ranked program you will change your mind. I disappointed when I didn't get into a top 15 school. My school is ranked about 25. There are about 30 people in my year and I told myself that If i was in the top 5 that I would try to transfer. I would honestly put myself closer to the bottom 5 now after being here for a few months. I have an undergrad degree in math (although I did take some weak classes), and I found myself to be really under prepared. I'm not saying that you won't be as smart as the other students, but a lot of the foreign students have ridiculous computational skills. I went from being disappointed in going to my school to feeling lucky. Unless you are 1) abnormally gifted or 2) very well prepared, it will be hard for you to rise to the top of your class. Sorry to be a little negative, but I just wanted to give you an idea of how strong the students are at not top schools. My advice is to get a masters in math if you really want to get into a top school (that is if you don't feel like you will get in currently).
    I hear you, man. There are a lot of incredibly smart people with extremely strong profiles at lower-ranked schools. These are people who could have gone to top schools, but I guess they just didn't want to or didn't care.

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    I never understood the logic of why a top five program would suddenly accept someone from a lower-ranked program after two years. Most of the time during your first two years is spent taking courses, and why should a top school care if you do well in coursework? No one cares in the end about grades-- research is the ultimate goal. I think to make a transfer work you'd have to get through all your coursework successfully and still make progress in research that demonstrates you'd be a better fit at another school.

    But there's a bit of a Catch-22 there -- you might need someone strong in your field to credibly recommend you for another school, but if there's someone strong in your field at your school, why should you transfer and why should they endorse your transfer? Or maybe there's someone from another field who recognizes your greatness, but then it's also hard to make research progress with no one good to advise you in your field. I can only see this working if you see someone at a school who is match for you in a very specific area of interest, you've met them somehow possibly through a faculty member at your school, and they want to work with you already. I'd think the transfer would have to be very personal.

    So anyway, I wouldn't count on it. Does anyone know of any specific cases of this working out? I just can't imagine it.

    EDIT: thought of one plausible scenario. Suppose you had really bad grades as an undergrad, but demonstrated some clear evidence of research promise -- i.e. award-winning thesis, blue-ribbon publication, etc. But your grades were enough to keep you out of top programs. Then maybe doing well in courses in a second-tier program would be helpful.
    Last edited by Golden Rule; 10-19-2007 at 02:33 PM.

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    I don't have any evidence to back me up, but it seems like this strategy would be less likely to work at top 5 schools. Besides, is it even worth it? I would much rather graduate at 28 with a PhD from a school ranked 25th, then spend two years there, and then transfer and spend another 4 years at a top 5 (retaking the exact classes I already took) and graduate at 30.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Terd Ferguson View Post
    I think once you are in the lower ranked program you will change your mind. I disappointed when I didn't get into a top 15 school. My school is ranked about 25. There are about 30 people in my year and I told myself that If i was in the top 5 that I would try to transfer. I would honestly put myself closer to the bottom 5 now after being here for a few months. I have an undergrad degree in math (although I did take some weak classes), and I found myself to be really under prepared. I'm not saying that you won't be as smart as the other students, but a lot of the foreign students have ridiculous computational skills. I went from being disappointed in going to my school to feeling lucky. Unless you are 1) abnormally gifted or 2) very well prepared, it will be hard for you to rise to the top of your class. Sorry to be a little negative, but I just wanted to give you an idea of how strong the students are at not top schools. My advice is to get a masters in math if you really want to get into a top school (that is if you don't feel like you will get in currently).
    This is interesting. I was talking to a professor last year, and he was saying that our program (ranked approximately 30) has some international students that are at the top of the class. He said that these people probably have the ability to be at much better schools. He said they probably wound up at our school because 1) it's harder for adcoms to figure out their ability because of the different schools, grading scales, etc. 2) the students may not know exactly what schools they can get into, and exactly how various programs are ranked.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dr_Shpak View Post
    i know 2 people who change schools from top20 to top3
    first - Rutgers-Wharton
    second MSU-Harvard

    Can you tell details about what exactly they did to get into those 2 schools???

    Like was it transfer from Econ to Economics or Economics to Finance (since Wharton B-school) ....Did profs from Rutgers and MSU wrote there recs...or they used old recommendations...grades etc at Rutgers and MSU...

    I would appreciate if can tell us more details...cause of i have seen this thread on Econ PhD zillion times...and once for an all ....if u can provide some good anecdotal evidence than we can conclude something on this...

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    Quote Originally Posted by dr_Shpak View Post
    i know 2 people who change schools from top20 to top3
    first - Rutgers-Wharton
    second MSU-Harvard
    I believe it is U Mich and not MSU. And for the sake of the argument, that person already had an extraordinary Master's and was only one or two months at Michigan when he applied at Harvard. I ll give one other example: from NYU to Harvard BusEc. The same caveats apply in this case also.

    Sometimes I feel there are people in this forum that try to push arguments even though there is no evidence for that (I am not referring to the OP): It is highly unlikely that coursework at some low ranked PhD can get you in a top school. (note, I am not saying that one cannot transfer in general). On the contrary, applying from a mediocre PhD is a low-cost signal for rejection.

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