Some of my backgrounds: Currently a master's student in a good but not top school. Now in a research group that could have been more productive. I am applying for PhD programs in this round of application (applying in 2020 and entering in 2021).
I talked with my current advisor and told him that I need a LoRec from him for my PhD application. I told him that I still haven't fixed my list of schools, which is true because I am still balancing my choices. He hinted me between his lines that he is interested in transferring me to his PhD student. He also suggested (in a very refined way) that he has enough fund to support me through the whole PhD program so I don't probably have to fulfill TA at all. His words were specifically made super easy and obvious for an ESL student to interpret: I can choose to continue to stay at his lab, or go somewhere else. This puts me at a dilemma:
The bad thing about it is that I do want to reach higher. I want to try and see if I can get into any of the top programs, because the ranking of my current program is a little bit low, and also my current advisor has a group that's not producing a lot of papers in past few years. The group members are all nice people, but I am worried that staying in the current group will not be the best investment I can make out of my next 6~ years.
The good thing about it is that accepting this "oral offer" at least gets me secured. I do have a very competitive GRE, GPA, and (I guess) quite strong letters, but this still doesn't ensure me or guarantee me about anything- I may be rejected by all the programs that I want to go, and the possibility of this is not low. If I just tell my professor that, yes, I want to stay, then of course I don't have to go through all these risks.
I can't really lie to my current advisor as if I am devoting to his lab while sneakily applying to others - On the one hand, I am really bad at telling lies. For real. I can barely lie on how much money I am earning even. On the other hand, one of my LoRec is from him, so once I give him the list of schools that he should send his letter to, particularly all of which are obviously better than my current school, then he'll know what's happening of course.
Is there any way to talk with my professor so that not only can I secure my potential position at this lab, but I can also apply to other schools with his letters, without making any negative impact either on him or on my application? I have no friend to talk with about this issue [they think I should find a job and start to earn a life]. I feel like I am being a greedy naughty bad student, but I don't have any idea how I should choose or what I should do. Any suggestion?