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I am an international student in the US (important as my stay in US is tied to my student visa, issued to attend my current university).

I joined as a grad student in the MS CS program in one of the okayish public universities (ranked ~50 on QS/US news). I joined in Fall '18 and am still in my first semester. I took all the so-called "difficult" courses, but I find them very trivial (considering my undergrad was from a very good university). I am very disappointed with the curriculum and feel the coursework is not at all rigorous for a grad-school.

I might sound super arrogant, but I feel out-of-place when I talk to other students and hear them cringe about how hard the courses are, or how they don't have enough time to finish assignments within the deadlines as I find all of the coursework very trivial and feel that the assignments are a joke.

Fortunately, I am working with one of the best profs the university has to offer on a very impactful project and the research is going great. But that's the only plus point I see from sticking around.

My aim from grad school is to get research experience and join one of the Big 4s or upcoming CS unicorn startups. I cannot see myself joining one of the Big-Ns after graduating since the students from this school rarely bag a Google/Fb/unicorn startup job.

Since December is the Fall'19 admissions deadline, I am thinking about reapplying to those top 10 CS schools which I couldn't get into last year (probably because of my poor undergrad GPA).

On the other hand, since every CS company just asks leetcode-style questions in interviews, I can just be super good at it and try to nail whatever interview I get without wasting another year and then doing the same.

I'm not really interested in any kind of credit transfer either since I would like to start fresh in a more rigorous curriculum.

I'm not sure if switching schools would be a wise decision and could really use some advice from the community here.

PS : Probably related - Is transferring to another university an option for an unhappy PhD student?

Posting with a dummy account for anonymity.

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I think you should stay where you are. My thoughts below.

Research. At the beginning, the classes seem hugely important and there is a lot of angst about whether you are at the "right" grad school. By the end, the only thing that matters is your research.

You write:

Fortunately, I am working with one of the best profs the university has to offer on a very impactful project and the research is going great. But that's the only plus point I see from sticking around.

This may be the "only plus point", but it's the crucial one. If you're doing good research, learning something, and publishing good papers in good journals, then your PhD is going very well.

Rankings. I think you would have a legitimate concern if you were at a predatory grad school that no one had ever heard of. But you say your school is ranked ~50, so presumably it's a "real" school that people have heard of. Going to a "slightly" better school will make ~no difference to a hiring committee. Going to a famous, top-10 school might make a difference, but even that is maybe less than you imagine.

Other students. I would point out that it's not necessarily that the other students are dumb; it's that they haven't covered this material before. But even if they are dumb, that just makes it easier for you to get the resources you need. One of the best talks I ever attended was from Karen Kelsky, who made the point that hire-able grad students are able to "pass" as a professor -- in the way they dress, the way they interact with colleagues, and the work they do -- so the other students are really irrelevant here, your "colleagues" are the faculty.

Time. I would also consider that transferring schools is a lot of work and, if you start from scratch, it will mean wasting a year of your life while you repeat "year-1" of grad school. Grad school is worth taking your time and doing well, but I would also seriously hesitate to lose an entire year -- you only get so many years in the workforce, so an extra year in grad school means one fewer year in the meaningful, interesting job you'll eventually find.

That said, I admit that getting a degree from MIT or Harvard would be exciting. If there's a way to apply to such schools without burning bridges, it might be worth sending in an application "on a lark". If you get in and have an advisor lined up, then I might even consider switching. But I would remain fully committed to your program until then -- it seems like things are going fine, and there are definite downsides to transferring even to a top school. Good luck!

  • Thank you for the detailed answer. This really helps. I have decided to stay and focus on my research. Thanks again :) – hola hoho Nov 22 '18 at 8:07

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