So, without giving out the details about the school. I joined a graduate program at school X, because I was really interested in work of professor Y. I met him during the graduate school visit and I accepted the offer to join school X.

Though Prof. Y did not officially accept me as his graduate student, he said come and meet me when school starts and we can figure out your research direction. Now, when I came to start at this school; I found out the professor Y has left and joined a different school Z.

I don't know what do now. My decision of joining school X was based on my intentions to work with Prof Y. Also, on top of that the school X now just has one faculty working in my interested area.

To be precise I am starting the PhD program now (Fall , 1st sem). I am not sure what my next step should be? I would appreciate any suggestions on the given situation.

3 Answers 3


Yeah, this happens. :(

I would recommend applying to school Z during your first year at school X. This would be very natural under the circumstances, and nobody (in particular, not those at school X) will think less of you for it.

Further, I'd recommend:

  • E-mail and ask Prof. Y if he'd be willing to vouch for you with the graduate admissions committee at school Z.

  • Simultaneously apply to a couple of other programs that might be more suitable for you than school X. This goes especially if Z is substantially more selective than X, so you are far from sure that you'll get in.

  • Kick ass in your first year at X. This will keep you sharp, enable you to get a letter of support from someone at X, and better prepare you for the program at Z if you go.

  • Keep in mind that you might not get into Z, or you might find a research area you like at X and decide you prefer to stay. (Another reason to kick ass in your first year at X.)

Good luck to you!

  • I am curious, is it possible to transfer between graduate schools (studying computer science) with my current coursework or do I need to send a fresh application to school Z ? Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 22:28
  • Every department is different. My department, for example, will let students transfer up to one semester of graduate coursework, but no more.
    – JeffE
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 1:51

While you may very well want to transfer to school Z in order to work with Professor Y, I'd consider the following point. If you expressed strong interest in working with him, and he made comments in writing that you should talk to him when you arrive at the school, then he was remiss in notifying you that he was no longer, in fact, at school X. Do you really want to work with an advisor who's packed up and moved without letting you know in advance?

However, I would also recommend, as Anonymous does, that you see if there's anyone in your current department who you would be interested in working for. If so, I'd pursue that option alongside the possibility of transferring to other departments. However, I'd also recommend that, before you accept an offer in another department, that you ensure that you have multiple potential advisors available to you, if you're working in a field where a commitment is not required before you enroll.


My PhD student was in exactly the same situation when I was moving from Michigan to Wisconsin but I told him that that move would be likely to occur even before I became his adviser. He just transferred with me (asking me only to confirm to the chair of the new department that I'm, indeed, interested in having him there).

The morals are:

1) Arranging a transfer is not a big headache.

2) You should be sure that not only you want to interact with prof Y, but also that he wants to interact with you before making any drastic move.

Given that Y didn't inform you about his move in any way, I would start with getting a clearer idea of where you stand as far as the second point is concerned. It doesn't imply that you should stay at X, but it may turn out that your best option is really to move to V to work with W...

  • Can you give me more details on how can I go about applying to some school V, staying in school X ? Do you think I should ask for assistance in school X regarding this. ( they wont take it in a bad way right?) Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 22:33
  • Nothing to do at X until the actual transfer takes place (except getting copies of transcripts, etc., and, possibly, asking for letters of recommendation). What you need to do, however, is to figure out who holds the "graduate director" position in the department at V to which you want to apply and contact him directly. I leave the choice between phone, e-mail, and snail mail to you (each has its own advantages and disadvantages) but you should explain clearly your situation, why you are interested in V, and why V might be interested in you. From there on you are on his mercy.
    – fedja
    Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 23:10
  • At X, I would tell about your intention to move only to people who are currently directly involved into some professional or personal relationships with you (plus those you need to get something related to the transfer from). IMHO, there is no point in attracting attention to it until the possibility is real and you are certain that you want to go for it, and all other people do not really care one way or another. Whether somebody takes it badly depends on their character and your communication skills.
    – fedja
    Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 23:15
  • Thanks, it does give me a little peace of mind knowing something like this is possible. Again, I sincerely appreciate you taking the time out to help. Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 1:14
  • 3
    The first thing to do, before initiating a transfer to work with prof Y, is to talk directly with prof Y, in person if possible; by skype by default; by phone if necessary; by email only if someone holds a gun to your heads.
    – JeffE
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 1:53

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