I am wondering whether it is worth asking your advisor for a recommendation letter to transfer right away (*).

Background: I just finished the 1st year of my math PhD and will reapply to transfer to a different university. I'm already at the point of picking an advisor. I've done all courses and qualifying exams, so in my 3rd semester I'll do the oral exam and start writing my thesis.

I narrowed the advisor to 2 options. The pro of the 1st is I've done enough work that future research will be faster, the con is (*). What I've done with the 1st: reading course, research, paper ready to submit, 2 more papers in preparation. What I've done with the 2nd: 2 courses last year.

I plan to continue in academia, so staying at my current university is not an option. However, I won't let the next year go to waste. If there is any research left to be done when I leave fall 2024 for another university, I will finish it in the form of published papers since you can't do a thesis twice. Lastly, I have to ask for a letter because it will be the strongest letter and letters are the most important part of graduate applications, so hiding transfer plans is not an option.

There are 2 similar questions, but both do not cover the advisor choice aspect. Unlike those questions, I am already set on both transferring and asking for a letter, this question is about whether to choose a different advisor.

  • 1
    The question is a little confusing. You seem to say that you are about to choose an advisor and then immediately ask for a letter to help you transfer. Why do you need an advisor at all in that case? You want letters from the people who know your work best. Perhaps you should ask both of these people to write for you. In any case any reference will need some information about why you are transferring. Aug 13, 2023 at 22:11
  • @EthanBolker Both of these will be letters regardless. I need an advisor because it's necessary to select one before oral exam and thesis writing. If I don't do those and instead spend more time self-studying + doing unofficial research, it will backfire if I fail to transfer. Also, the department will be suspicious that I'm zipping through everything so quickly and now I've decided to do "nothing" for the entire fall semester. Each semester has a minimum credit requirement, satisfied through research or courses, but I'm done with courses.
    – Anonamouse
    Aug 13, 2023 at 23:05
  • You should probably try to get advice from both these professors about the best way to move your education forward. Aug 14, 2023 at 0:01
  • I'm confused, are you trying to transfer advisors or programs? Aug 14, 2023 at 0:18
  • @AzorAhai-him- Transfer programs, more precisely to a math PhD at a different university. Question updated
    – Anonamouse
    Aug 14, 2023 at 0:51


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