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Math grad student considering transfer, looking for advice

  1. Oct 29, 2011 #1
    Lately I have been having sort of a crisis. I am a phd student studying math in my second year at a school ranked between 70-90 (out of 127 ranked schools). I am considering trying to transfer to a top 40 program, partly to help my job prospects after graduation, and also because I now have a much better idea of what areas of research I am interested in than I did when I made my first round of applications. I am conflicted about whether or not this is a good idea.

    My background: I was uninterested in mathematics until senior year in college, when I discovered abstract mathematics, which I immediately loved. I stayed for an extra year taking whatever pure math courses I could cram into my schedule and graduated with a BA in math. I wanted to go to graduate school but felt that my background was very weak and didn’t know what area of mathematics I was interested in, so I applied to whatever schools I thought might accept me. I accepted the first offer I received.

    In graduate school I’ve done very well so far, although it has been a struggle trying to fill in all the holes left from my weak background. I am starting to think more seriously about what I will do after graduation, and the truth is, there aren’t any jobs that interest me outside of academia.

    Since I have a much stronger background in math than I did when I sent out my first round of applications, and now have a better idea of which subject I want to do research in, I have been thinking about applying to higher ranked programs that have strong research in my area of choice.

    I am conflicted for two reasons:

    First, I wonder if my application would be strong now or not. On one hand, I have two years of successful graduate coursework with very high grades, and I think I could get good recommendations. On the other hand, I don’t have GRE subject test scores, I don’t have a background in research, and schools might view me as less desirable than an undergraduate who has taken graduate courses (which is common these days).

    Second, while in a stronger program I might have better opportunities upon graduation, there is always the chance that it wouldn’t work out; it would add two more years to the length of my graduate school work and there is the possibility of burning myself out, or just not liking the new school.

    The program I am currently in is challenging and is a friendly place, but it is a small school so there aren’t many choices for advisers and I worry about my job prospects upon graduation.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 31, 2011 #2


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    challenging and friendly are big pluses, but not as much if they do not have the area you want to specialize in. i would make the decision based on mathematics not politics.
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