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I just completed a masters in CS at a local school while working as a developer. I liked the process and want to go on to a PhD in other places. My adviser supports my choice and is writing me letters to the other schools. That said, the (small) department has offered me funding to stay on for the PhD, starting in the spring. The faculty in my department study very different things from me. I am applying to much more prestigious places now. If I don't get in I will probably take a year to publish more and then apply again. With that said, should I accept the offer to transfer into the PhD program at my local school? Will it help or hurt my chances if I need to reapply? I could certainly say (credibly) that there is no advisor in my department that supports my interests. I saw this and this but am not sure what to do:

Is transferring to another university an option for an unhappy PhD student?

Trying other PhD opportunities while accepting an offer from my master supervisor?

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There is a general rule that if you apply to multiple academic programs in the same year, then once you accept an offer of admission to one of them, you must immediately contact all the others to withdraw your application, so that they can offer admission to someone else.

So if you accept the offer to join your PhD program at the local school, that is a final decision for at least a year, and you have to withdraw your applications from the prestigious places. You cannot wait and see if a more prestigious school accepts you. That would be considered unethical.

If after a year, you decide that you want to think about transferring, you can apply to a more prestigious program then. However, at that time, your new application will need to include your achievements during that extra year, and the program will evaluate your expectations based on what they would expect a first-year PhD student to achieve. So depending on how that year goes, your application could become either stronger or weaker.

  • Thanks. The offer from the local school is to start in the spring. Does your advice still apply? – user25308 Dec 8 '14 at 20:43
  • @user25308: That makes it fuzzier, but I think it does. Another school would have to consider you as a transfer applicant, and I don't think that is likely to work out well if you are transferring from a program you won't even have started. – Nate Eldredge Dec 8 '14 at 22:35

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