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I accepted a pre-doctoral fellowship at University A with the expectation I will pursue a PhD there. After 3 months into the fellowship, I realized that the program doesn't exactly spark my interest and I cannot see myself spending the next 4-5 years doing this type of research.

Unfortunately, it's hard to bring it up with my current potential advisors since my background is a perfect fit for this topic. A professor at another university B reached out for an interview and if I am successful with my application there, I would be more inclined to go to University B as I believe it is a better fit and the research topic there would be much more interesting.

Am I misleading my current advisors by continuing my fellowship at A? Note that at this point, I have not received an offer yet at B, and I'm afraid to leave A in case B doesn't push through. On the other hand, PhD is a major commitment, and I'm afraid I might have ended up committing to a PhD that I'm not all that interested in. What are the ethics of staying at fellowship A?

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    If you delete and re-post your questions, you can be at risk of system-imposed restrictions on posting future questions (if this happens, even moderators can't help you). Instead, you should edit when you want to make changes, rather than deleting.
    – Bryan Krause
    Feb 22 at 19:09
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    Many times at StackExchange, esp. in Academia people come with questions that are critical for them. Their question might be phrased poorly or might be opinionated or may have other flaws. But downvoting the question in those scenarios is mean and might hurt them more. (Not referring to OP here)
    – kosmos
    Feb 22 at 20:37

2 Answers 2

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In general, you can leave a position, even a generous one, as long as you fulfill the requirements. Accepting a fellowship isn't normally signing away all your future choices. It might be problematic if you leave some projects unfinished when others depend on you.

But, it would be wise, just so that you have all options before you, to discuss your plans at some point with current advisors. That need not be immediately unless they need to take some action on projects to assure continuity, but that probably isn't the case.

It isn't the "leaving" per se that has ethical implications, but the other factors around it as noted above.

Ultimately you shouldn't commit to something that you feel isn't in your best interest. In particular, continuing into a PhD there after the fellowship, even if you complete it, is probably not a good idea.

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I think Buffy answered really well. But just wanted to add that you also want to reflect carefully on how you were attracted to the program at University A in the first place. The grass is always greener on the other side. No matter how exciting the project at University B sounds at the moment, there are always boring and mundane tasks involved in the pursuit of a Ph.D. degree. Just the fun should outweigh the pain somehow. And it is easy to dislike something when you are working on it day in and day out. So it is easy to have a bias towards your current program now. Just make sure that you will not come into the same situation at University B. If you ever want to hop to a University C, people will start questioning why you keep hopping.

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