Changing Grad Schools

  • As many already know, studying for the physics GRE and getting accepted into a graduate program is not the final hurdle in your physics career.
  • There are many issues current physics graduate students face such as studying for their qualifier, deciding upon a field of research, choosing an advisor, being an effective teaching assistant, trying to have a social life, navigating department politics, dealing with stress, utilizing financial aid, etc.

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Changing Grad Schools

Postby Trees » Sun Oct 18, 2009 2:41 pm


Unfortunately I have come to regret my grad school decision very much, which is obviously not good. I had alot to choose from and choose the wrong one. I like the instructors, students and department just fine - the problem is there is little to no prospect in research here. On recruiting weekend I was led to believe that a few different groups would be willing to take me on. But after arriving here I find that there are virtually no spaces for grad students in the research groups. The dept. knows this too, they accepted way too many students for the spaces they have available. Their solution may be to cut our TA funding after the first year to effectively weed us out.

Now I am wondering what the prospects of reapplying and changing schools might be. I feel this is probably very unlikely. A grad program doesn't want the 'reject' from a different program. Also, as I have no research opportunity here so I would have to attempt to use my old undergrad references. I could apply this winter and try to get a different school ASAP, or I could wait and see if I can fund my own masters and then apply in the next year or two.

What would you do in my situation?

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Re: Changing Grad Schools

Postby grae313 » Sun Oct 18, 2009 3:01 pm

Trees, I would go ahead and apply as a transfer student. The worst that could happen is the same as if you didn't apply, minus a few hundred bucks, which is no big deal in the long run compared to your graduate career.

Transferring is somewhat rare, but I'd say you have a pretty good reason and it certainly does happen. For example, one student at my University is a transfer student from the University of Michigan, she transferred after her first year there, and another student in my class just left after his first year to do AMO at U Boulder. So it happens. Generally not without a good reason, but I think you have a good reason. If you write in your statement of purpose that there are few research opportunities there for you, I don't think it will reflect poorly on you.

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Re: Changing Grad Schools

Postby noojens » Sun Oct 18, 2009 5:27 pm

Yep, if the school's not a good fit for you I'd get out while the getting's good. If you were already accepted at a few other schools, your prospects of readmission there are likely pretty good. I suggest talking to a faculty member at your current institution about your situation (the graduate advisor is a good place to start) and asking them to write a letter of recommendation for you. An explanation from said faculty member that you're not a "reject" -- you're in good academic standing and so on; you just couldn't find a good match for your research interests -- will be invaluable.

Good luck :)

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Re: Changing Grad Schools

Postby volcano » Mon Nov 02, 2009 7:49 pm

Guys generally, how do you apply as a transfer student? Will your credits ged transferred easily? And do you have to inform your current institution about your intentions? And finally, how eager will your current institution be in letting you just walk out?

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Re: Changing Grad Schools

Postby grae313 » Mon Nov 02, 2009 8:13 pm

volcano wrote:Guys generally, how do you apply as a transfer student?
You fill out an application and select "transfer" when it asks you what type of student you are.
Will your credits ged transferred easily?
Different institutions have different policies towards transfer credits and what classes they require. Most programs are not interested in wasting your time by making you take a course you've already had. They'll want to know what textbook you used and if the syllabus is similar and you have a decent grade, in most cases you won't have to retake it. You'll still have to meet all the required courses at the new university.
And do you have to inform your current institution about your intentions?
No. Not until it's time to tell them how you plan to be funded next semester. Eventually you'll have to file paperwork saying you're withdrawing from the University.
And finally, how eager will your current institution be in letting you just walk out?
They won't be thrilled but if you have a legitimate reason and handle things like an adult it shouldn't be a huge problem. It's not like they can force you to stay unless you've signed some sort of contract. There's no "letting" going on here.

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Re: Changing Grad Schools

Postby betelgeuse1 » Fri Dec 25, 2009 5:17 pm

Well, I'm very happy you asked this question because I have a similar situation. Well, there might be some differences as I can get some recoms. from my "one year" graduate school. It seams that I've "impressed" some people there but the department was "too small" with only one person making acceptable research on the field I wanted, and that person had no funding... So, I took the PGRE again, got a higher score and now I'm applying to brand-new programs, hopefully even better ones. So don't get down now! All in all I found out that we (the people like me, from Europe) get far more information during the undergraduate classes. I don't know if the admission committees know this, but if they don't they should find it out now in order not to look too stupid during some graduate classes (as it happened in my case... won't tell names and won't tell the school, don't worry). Generally speaking, I know I'm quite "harsh" now, but some schools do really need fresh meat (or let's say... fresh brains)
good luck!

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