Reapplying

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Wiggins84bc
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2010 6:28 pm

Reapplying

Postby Wiggins84bc » Mon Nov 15, 2010 6:44 pm

Hi,

I'm currently just over a year into a PhD in Europe, but for various reasons I am considering applying for grad schools for Fall 2011. The reasons being I'm not 100% happy with my research topic at the moment, also I don't really feel like I have bonded with the other students at my institute and in some ways would like a clean slate to start over. It also seems to me that US PhD programs give a lot more support learning advanced material a theorist needs,e.g. multiple QFT courses, Supersymmetry, String etc, and at the moment I seem to be just out there struggling to learn this stuff on my own. I also wonder if I will stand a better prospect in the long run with a US PhD than European, and plus this would perhaps make it easier for me to get a non academic career in the US if my academic dreams fall through, which seems pretty common in HEP theory. Also I would quite like the chance to experience life in a different country I suspose but this is superficial to the other reasons.

Although I'm not happy where I am, I still have reservations about reapplying. What would my undergrad referees say? will they think it's immoral that I'm enrolled somewhere and reapplying somewhere else at the same time (as surely I can't just quit first and risk being left with abs nothing and a wasted year). Would my current dept somewhere find out that I had applied elsewhere, making for an awkward situation? Can I really justify wasted 2 years (by the time I start the new PhD) of my life, when I could be getting my European PhD just 1-2 years after Fall 2011. Do I really want to jump through the hoops of TA'ing and candidacy exams, when right now I have none of that and just straight research.

Despite all these reservations I know I'm not really happy career wise/socially where I am at the moment, so it seems to me I should at least apply now to keep this option open then I can truly decide in April, if I get any interesting offers. I already have the GRE and PGRE, so the only thing stopping me at least speculatively making some apps is the thought of how my old undergrad refs will judge this move, and the small thought of how this could get back to my current dept and mess things up even more and leave me with nothing.

Just wondering if anyone has any advice, guess I need to choose soon, as some international apps are early Dec

admissionprof
Posts: 364
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 7:50 pm

Re: Reapplying

Postby admissionprof » Mon Nov 15, 2010 9:35 pm

I can tell you one thing. Whenever anyone applies who is currently a grad student, we absolutely insist on hearing from someone at their current school. This is to make sure they are not leaving for some "nefarious" reason (cheating, flunking out, etc.). If someone asks us to keep it confidential, we generally won't accept them (unless there is a VERY good reason which is independently verified).

Of course, if you can find someone at your current school who will keep your plans confidential, that will generally suffice. You will, of course, need to send transcripts, but that often is done from an office that is independent of the department.

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Reapplying

Postby WhoaNonstop » Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:34 am

First of all, to the original poster: I think you should do what will make you happiest, regardless of where that takes you. I wouldn't worry about what the department thinks. If they scold you for these applications, then they aren't looking out for your best interest. You need to do what is best for you, and I don't think the program will dismiss you just because of that.

Considering we were kind of on this topic of sending transcripts earlier, I felt I'd ask since it's coming up a lot. Since I will not being sending my Calculus III credit from the community college (I took the equivalent at my undergraduate university), I was wondering how an application committee would even be able to identify this not being sent.

On a different scale, say the original poster does have a reason to dismiss any signs of his graduate records and he does not send any information to a school. Especially with him being in Europe, how would an application committee be able to identify him as doing this? I mean, as you mentioned before, it would be ridiculous for an application committee to spend time searching these forums for their applications.

- Riley

Wiggins84bc
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2010 6:28 pm

Re: Reapplying

Postby Wiggins84bc » Tue Nov 16, 2010 6:12 am

Yes I was considering reapplying under the radar so to speak, rather than quitting first since then I obviously risk being left with no PhD at all and a wasted couple of years. I do worry that this isn't the best way to go about it, after all I've taken a few grad courses and done other activites that should really strenthen my app if I didn't have to just leave this period out, after all I'm not leaving for any nefarious reason and my advisor seems happy with what I'm doing. I can't see any other way to do it however. (just to clairfy also that my undergrad is different to my current PhD institute so getting undergrad refs and transcripts again hopefully should be confidential?)

admissionprof
Posts: 364
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 7:50 pm

Re: Reapplying

Postby admissionprof » Tue Nov 16, 2010 7:17 am

First, leaving off a community college course is completely irrelevant. Leaving off an institution where you spent over a year as a full-time student is not irrelevant. Sometimes the application only asks you for places where you got a degree, in which case you're fine. But if it asks about attendance, you really must include it. Not doing so is fraudulent.

If I were an undergrad recommender, and a student asked me for another recommendation a couple of years later, I'd have no problem (after all, the old one is stored on my computer, and it's trivial to send out more). But I ALWAYS update letters, and it is probable that many of your undergrad recommenders will mention it.

I would absolutely refuse to write a letter where the applicant asked me to ignore their current grad school. Period. And if I were on an admission committee and got three letters that were dated from two years ago--no way--I might call the letter writers and ask for an update.

Wiggins84bc
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2010 6:28 pm

Re: Reapplying

Postby Wiggins84bc » Tue Nov 16, 2010 9:21 am

Thanks for the advice, I really appreciate it.

What are my options then? If my undergrad refs insist on updating their reference letters about my time in this PhD then it would seem that my only option would be be upfront with my current supervisor, tell him I'm not happy and want to change PhD to another university, since if I don't then either a) my undergrad refs may contact the dept anyway before updating their letters to find out what the situation is or b) if my undergrad refs mention my current PhD in their letters then someone from a prospective US gradschool may contact the dept to find out more info.

But this would be a huuuuge risk for me because who knows if I will get back any offers worth accepting come April, I may end up with abs nothing, a wasted year, and losing a PhD that although would have made me miserable for a few years would not make me miserable as just quitting ending up with nothing at all and then going looking for a job in industry.

Before this thread I was hoping I'd just be able to apply 'on the side' so to speak, which would have been risk free effectively, as I thought the risk of my advisor finding our I've applied elsewhere would be minimal. Now I really don't know what to do.

admissionprof
Posts: 364
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 7:50 pm

Re: Reapplying

Postby admissionprof » Tue Nov 16, 2010 11:00 am

Wiggins84bc wrote:Thanks for the advice, I really appreciate it.

What are my options then? If my undergrad refs insist on updating their reference letters about my time in this PhD then it would seem that my only option would be be upfront with my current supervisor, tell him I'm not happy and want to change PhD to another university, since if I don't then either a) my undergrad refs may contact the dept anyway before updating their letters to find out what the situation is or b) if my undergrad refs mention my current PhD in their letters then someone from a prospective US gradschool may contact the dept to find out more info.

But this would be a huuuuge risk for me because who knows if I will get back any offers worth accepting come April, I may end up with abs nothing, a wasted year, and losing a PhD that although would have made me miserable for a few years would not make me miserable as just quitting ending up with nothing at all and then going looking for a job in industry.

Before this thread I was hoping I'd just be able to apply 'on the side' so to speak, which would have been risk free effectively, as I thought the risk of my advisor finding our I've applied elsewhere would be minimal. Now I really don't know what to do.


I don't know about UK institutions, but at most US departments, there is someone (often a chair of a graduate studies committee) that students can speak with confidentially (so the supervisor, dept. chair, etc will never learn of the conversation). That person can then write a brief letter explaining that you are doing well, have no black marks, but would prefer to go elsewhere. The supervisor and chair will never know about this. You can then not worry about your undergrad letter writers mentioning it, since you'll be upfront. In your SOP, you should request confidentiality. As long as a letter from someone at your current institution that says you're ok is in the file, I would never break such a request. But that is US, not sure about UK.

Wiggins84bc
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2010 6:28 pm

Re: Reapplying

Postby Wiggins84bc » Tue Nov 16, 2010 5:56 pm

admissionprof wrote:I don't know about UK institutions, but at most US departments, there is someone (often a chair of a graduate studies committee) that students can speak with confidentially (so the supervisor, dept. chair, etc will never learn of the conversation). That person can then write a brief letter explaining that you are doing well, have no black marks, but would prefer to go elsewhere. The supervisor and chair will never know about this. You can then not worry about your undergrad letter writers mentioning it, since you'll be upfront. In your SOP, you should request confidentiality. As long as a letter from someone at your current institution that says you're ok is in the file, I would never break such a request. But that is US, not sure about UK.


hmm perhaps there is such a person, I'm not sure so I will have a look for them. How would this request for confidentiality go down with admissions committees if this letter was present in my file? although they know I didn't fail/cheat etc, I wonder if it would still harm my chances because they would worry I'm a quitter or something and they'd think I'd have a high prob of quitting the new PhD orr something.

So in summary I should probably speculatively email my refs just asking for there feelings on me reapplying and providing references, maybe even asking them for advice on how I should handle the situation. Also I should try to contact some equivalent of the grad studies chair to see if I would be granted such a confidential letter noting on how I wasn't kicked out and so on to provide in my apps.

admissionprof
Posts: 364
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 7:50 pm

Re: Reapplying

Postby admissionprof » Wed Nov 17, 2010 1:14 pm

Wiggins84bc wrote:
admissionprof wrote:I don't know about UK institutions, but at most US departments, there is someone (often a chair of a graduate studies committee) that students can speak with confidentially (so the supervisor, dept. chair, etc will never learn of the conversation). That person can then write a brief letter explaining that you are doing well, have no black marks, but would prefer to go elsewhere. The supervisor and chair will never know about this. You can then not worry about your undergrad letter writers mentioning it, since you'll be upfront. In your SOP, you should request confidentiality. As long as a letter from someone at your current institution that says you're ok is in the file, I would never break such a request. But that is US, not sure about UK.


hmm perhaps there is such a person, I'm not sure so I will have a look for them. How would this request for confidentiality go down with admissions committees if this letter was present in my file? although they know I didn't fail/cheat etc, I wonder if it would still harm my chances because they would worry I'm a quitter or something and they'd think I'd have a high prob of quitting the new PhD orr something.

So in summary I should probably speculatively email my refs just asking for there feelings on me reapplying and providing references, maybe even asking them for advice on how I should handle the situation. Also I should try to contact some equivalent of the grad studies chair to see if I would be granted such a confidential letter noting on how I wasn't kicked out and so on to provide in my apps.


As long as your SOP gives a good reason for your wishing to move, a request for confidentiality wouldn't hurt your application at all, as long as we knew that you didn't fail/cheat/etc.

Wiggins84bc
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2010 6:28 pm

Re: Reapplying

Postby Wiggins84bc » Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:57 am

Just as an update to this thread. I've managed to make some progress, in that I've got transcripts of my current course/letters to say I am enrolled currently as a student and am schedulded to be graduating at such and such a date (hopefully these show I'm doing well, and haven't been kicked out etc). Also I've spoken to my undergrad refs who are willing to ref for me again.

So now my plan would be to apply and fully disclose my current PhD position and just ask for some confidentiality in my SOP (i.e. please do not ring my current group or advisor say!! :cry: )

I also contacted some admissions secretaries just to check their take on the matter, and most just said I can apply via the usual channels,but I don't think really grasped what I was saying when I asked about honoring my confidentiality request, so their emails have not really helped all that much.

I'm still very apprehensive about actually going ahead with the apps for the sole reason of the confidentiality thing, if it got back to my group or advisor in this manner, it would be just about the worst thing I can imagine. Also my advisor obviously has contacts/friends in a lot of places, very likly in some US places I apply to. I wonder how many places will work out that I'm his student, then give him a call to find out what the deal is say. Even if they didn't contact the group in quite this formal manner, what about in casual conversation in future at some conference dinner or something.
Just wondering if admissionsprof or anyone else, had anything to say on this particular issue, as it's definitely the last thing standing between me applying now, but it seems a pretty big issue.

admissionprof
Posts: 364
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 7:50 pm

Re: Reapplying

Postby admissionprof » Tue Nov 30, 2010 3:08 pm

Wiggins84bc wrote:Just as an update to this thread. I've managed to make some progress, in that I've got transcripts of my current course/letters to say I am enrolled currently as a student and am schedulded to be graduating at such and such a date (hopefully these show I'm doing well, and haven't been kicked out etc). Also I've spoken to my undergrad refs who are willing to ref for me again.

So now my plan would be to apply and fully disclose my current PhD position and just ask for some confidentiality in my SOP (i.e. please do not ring my current group or advisor say!! :cry: )

I also contacted some admissions secretaries just to check their take on the matter, and most just said I can apply via the usual channels,but I don't think really grasped what I was saying when I asked about honoring my confidentiality request, so their emails have not really helped all that much.

I'm still very apprehensive about actually going ahead with the apps for the sole reason of the confidentiality thing, if it got back to my group or advisor in this manner, it would be just about the worst thing I can imagine. Also my advisor obviously has contacts/friends in a lot of places, very likly in some US places I apply to. I wonder how many places will work out that I'm his student, then give him a call to find out what the deal is say. Even if they didn't contact the group in quite this formal manner, what about in casual conversation in future at some conference dinner or something.
Just wondering if admissionsprof or anyone else, had anything to say on this particular issue, as it's definitely the last thing standing between me applying now, but it seems a pretty big issue.


All I can really add is that if you EXPLICITLY state that you wish your application to be confidential, then nobody should call you current advisor and ask. Note that I said "should"--obviously not everyone has the same ethical standards.

Wiggins84bc
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2010 6:28 pm

Re: Reapplying

Postby Wiggins84bc » Tue Nov 30, 2010 7:04 pm

OK, thanks again for the advice.

Guess it just comes down to if I'm willing to take the gamble....




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