TakeruK wrote:I think if you withdrew now then it won't be a huge deal. You will certainly burn bridges in astronomy and it would mean you would never have the opportunity for astrophysics that you have now. But if you let your school know now that you don't want to leave, it will do the least amount of damage (maybe they will have you stay until the end of the semester if you are a TA etc.)
amyludeng wrote:You seem to suggest I quit asap, possibly immediately, this is a possibility I'm considering. It doesn't seem like I have enough time to make a strong application to schools by this fall. I could quit and wait a year, although it seems like a very risky move at the moment.
astroprof wrote:Also, while it is common for students to change research directions, I also wonder whether your urge to change fields has a more pernicious underlying cause: impostors syndrome. It sounds like you have been highly successful in the past (2 publications, enrolled at a top-ten graduate program, etc). It can be scary to try to keep performing at this level, and the first semester/year of graduate school is often an unpleasant realization of how difficult it can be to stay on top, particularly if you don't think you should be there. If this is a case of impostors syndrome, you may anticipate failing and think (unconsciously) that It will be easier to "fail" if you set up a situation where you do not have the relevant background. This is not to say that you don't have a rational reason for changing fields (particularly if you were singularly focussed on getting into astronomy graduate school and thus did not have time to consider other options until this past summer). Rather, you may want to question whether changing fields will be sufficient, or if you will find yourself in a similar place in a few years, once you have demonstrated excellence in this new research direction as well.
TakeruK wrote:I agree with astroprof that I think the best thing to do after you are satisfied with the amount of feedback online is to talk to your professors. Maybe you can start with the ones from your past institution first and they might help you find a good way to bring this up to your current professors.
Perhaps the best course of action is to actually keep working in astronomy for at least another year and see how you feel about the field. At the same time, you can do what astroprof suggests and find out a lot more information about life in the other field to see if the grass is really greener on the other side. You can also talk to the other department and find out if you would actually be competitive as an applicant in that field.
I can't really say what's best for you because I don't know you. But if you were a friend of mine that I knew well and someone I knew that worked hard to get into an Astronomy grad program and then my friend told me this, I would also wonder if changing fields after only a few months is the "best" thing to do. Grad school can be a big change and usually, it's worth staying at least one year to fully evaluate how much you feel like you belong/fit into a certain program. I feel a little bad saying this because in doing so, I am dismissing your own opinions without even knowing you. But I have to say that the first few months of grad school is a big change and that it is perfectly normal for us to question our own choices to choose this program/field. I started grad school twice (in Canada, you do separate programs for MSc and PhD) and both times, I spent the whole first semester wondering if I made the right choice. And then even after the first year, self-doubt occasionally creeps in! I just wanted to say that it's normal to wonder if you are doing the right thing for yourself and that maybe even staying for a Masters in astrophysics before switching might be the best route instead of leaving right away. However, as I said at the beginning of the paragraph, I don't really know you and all your circumstances so perhaps it's inappropriate for me to assume that all of this applies. If that is the case, I apologize!
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