For humanities PhDs:

If you find that your research topic has changed such that you no longer are a good fit in your program, is it possible to re-apply and get accepted into the same program at other schools that would be a better fit? Can anyone speak to this experience?

  • 4
    I think it would help to specify why the topic has changed so dramatically.
    – xLeitix
    Sep 17, 2015 at 10:15
  • My professor mention to me, do you want to do a Chinese research? how is that, well look for a well researched topic and see if you can improve it a bit or apply it in other context.
    – user137869
    Oct 10, 2015 at 9:07

3 Answers 3


When I served on a PhD admissions committee we saw a few candidates like this--people who were in their first or second years at highly regarded programs, but their research statements portrayed more alignment with the faculty in our program. I have two thoughts on this: 1) despite being worldwide, academia feels pretty small in that the professors at your institution might know or know a friend of the professors in the department you are thinking of applying to. Therefore, you should probably have their blessing before applying. It is not uncommon for faculty on admissions committees to reach out to colleagues at the school you are at to find out about you and your research interests. 2) you should probably address the reasons for your switch in a note to the admissions committee or in your personal statement that describes your evolving research interests because people on the admissions committee will likely have questions as to why you feel the need to switch. Admissions committees are trying to find good people to invest in and might be concerned about your ability to make a long-term commitment to the program if you are already switching out of another.

An alternative to switching programs--get a meeting with your POI to strike up a conversation about your latest project. They might be interested in working with you or have students that you could co-author with in the future.


If your current department is not complaining... stay where you are. Switching departments could set you back.


Another thought, might your current department or advisor be willing to allow an external examiner or reader to be on your committee?

Depending on how far away what you want to study is from what you can at your institution, they might be very amenable to helping you do your project within the department in conjunction with other resources.

I know, for instance, that Baylor's Philosophy Department has made provisions of this sort. And I know several other departments where a large part of a project has been guided and checked by an external advisor.

I've also seen changing programs. It can make you an exceptionally strong graduate student and candidate later, but it most definitely will slow your graduation.

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