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Transferring between graduate schools

  1. Jun 18, 2010 #1
    I need information or advice on transferring to another university. I am a graduate student and next fall will be the start of my third year. I finished my courses with good GPA and I am starting to study QFT. The problem is that my university is very strong in Condensed matter and astrophysics but almost nonexistent on the theoretical particle physics map. Because all seminars are on those two subject, I find it very difficult to know what is going on in particle physics research. From my experience, it would be a bad idea to just go with the flow and finish a PhD in astrophysics and then try to switch to particle physics, it doesn't work that way. So I have to transfer to another university with a strong research in theoretical particle physics. what are the difficulties of transferring? I thought about retaking the GRE exams, but I thought may be it is better if I focus on QFT, GR and Group theory and may be do some research towards publication in astrophysics; I don't know should I apply this December or wait until December 2011 to be much better prepared? by that time I will be 30 years old and I fear being in a grad school for 3 to 4 years combined with my age will make it even harder to get accepted to institutions with strong particle physics group. Also, does anyone knows about a university that has a good PR research and not being MIT, Harvard and Princeton league; I don't think I have a chance at those universities. Thanks .
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  3. Jun 18, 2010 #2

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    Transferring is a very unusual thing in grad schools. Unless your advisor is moving schools and cuts a deal where she takes his students with her, normally one "transfers" by entering a graduate program. That virtually always means taking the qualifying exam again. Usually the university's residency requirements mean that even if every class transfers over, at least a year of classes will be required.
  4. Jun 18, 2010 #3


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    I transferred graduate schools to completely switch programs (one end of the astrophysical spectrum to the other). I had to retake several classes and the qualifying exams - they basically expect all incoming students to redo the masters work, even if they've already done it elsewhere. So it probably added a year or two to my overall time in graduate school. But your age doesn't matter. Several of my friends did this, and we had no trouble getting into other programs in our late twenties.
  5. Jun 18, 2010 #4
    Hi Korsakov. I just finished my third year, so I guess I'm not too far ahead of you. I have a friend who switched from my university to another, because she wanted to do cosmology, and our department had a lot of astrophysics but no cosmology. She tells me she didn't have to retake her classes like quantum, E&M, and stuff. And apparently the new school even said it was possible for her to get out of the qualifier, but she took it anyway and passed. I'm guessing this sort of thing varies from department to department though, because at my school even the students coming in with an MS (which is basically a transfer too) take the first year classes.

    One interesting trick I observed: I know a student at my department who transferred from another university, but did not file the paperwork to finish his master's degree over there. At my department people with a BS have two chances to pass the qual, but students with an MS have only one. Since he technically didn't have an MS, he got two chances. So I guess it may be worth it for you to not get an MS. Not that you'd want to come to my department; we're good with experimental particle, but no so good with theoretical particle.

    Good luck with whatever you do!
  6. Jun 19, 2010 #5
    Hi guys,
    Thank you for replies. I would like to know the following information from your own experiences or from your friends';

    1. People who transferred between grad schools, after how many years in their first grad school did they apply; like during their first year they applied and then accepted and entered the new one in their second year or do you know people who stayed three years in their first school and then changed.

    2. how difficult to get recommendation letters: I will feel awkward to ask professors for recommendation letters since I was supposed to finish a degree in this university since I was supported by the grad school.

    3. Did you have to retake the GRE's to improve your chances of getting into a new school?

    4. Did you publish?

    5. Do you think by taking grad courses with good GPA and passing the qualifying exam improved your chances or made you seem a better applicant?

    I don't mind adding one year to my grad education to do what I want; I finished with a masters from my country and had to do research (with no publication) in condensed matter since I didn't have the option to do it in theoretical particle physics and that made my application weak (in addition to a BS in non-physics major) and thus had only one acceptance from my current university; now I know that most strong groups in particle physics are in very high ranked institutions and that will be quite a jump from my university (top 70, but very strong in astrophysics). So people who transferred between institutions, how up or down did you go in university ranking? Thank you.
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