I have been studying as a computer science Ph.D student for 3 years in a relatively low-tier school. I have done pretty bad during my first 1-2 years as an undergraduate. Even though I have received top grades during my second half of study, the GPA pit cannot be filled up. I end up being admitted to a less ideal school and start doing research there. However, recently I feel like quitting my program (transferring to master) and get into a higher-ranked department. I have the following reasons.

  1. My platform now is not high and people around lack motivation. Environment has huge impact on people. I wish to be at some place where everybody has their earnest enthusiasm for research.

  2. I worked really hard on myself, and managed to publish several good papers. I am among the most productive student in the department. With several years' research experience. I have demonstrated my intelligence capabilities, thus stand a better chance to get to a top-tier department, where I can receive better training and prepare for my future career.

  3. Top-tier departments have much better connections, from industrial, from external labs, from alumni, etc. Connections matter in any place. That is also a reason why people do care about where you get your PhD from. With the same research outcome (paper), a school is most likely to choose a candidate from a more prestigious school. It is just how it works.

  4. I have thought about post-doc. However, I do not think a post-doc will receive better training or so from the advisor. Furthermore, people do have higher expectations for post-docs. People would be surprised a Ph.D has published 5 top-tier papers. For a post-doc, hmmm... Please do not be obsessed with my example, you get the idea.

Something to clarify:

I definitely do not wish to defer my career by another several years. I do not intend to use another PhD as an excuse not entering the real world.

I am 25, I still have some time to follow my heart. I am hardworking and self-motivated. These days a CS guy can easily find a crazily high-paying job. I give it up, and I still wish to set a best path for my future career. So here are my questions.

  1. Will admission committee be hesitant to admit students who quit another Ph.D program? Would I be looked down upon simply because I wish to join a higher-tier department?

  2. I guess I can only re-apply for the next fall, which leaves me a year in between. What should I do to further enhance my chance?

  3. Is completing my current PhD and get to a related field (such as CE, ECE, EE) an option? I somehow prefer this way because I still do not intend to ruin the relationship with my advisor while I get to do what I want. (Assume I get lucky and graduate in 4 years) But again, does it hurt my chance of being accepted to another program?

I know It my not be the best choice I have, but it is what I really want to do. As long as the price is not a leg or arm, I am willing to accept it.

I welcome any comment and suggestions. However, please be REALISTIC. Let's talk about it in a realistic world, where better department does provide a higher platform and help a student achieving higher goals, at least in probability.

Thank you in advance.

  • 8
    "All he has done is to let me read papers, come up with my own research idea, make me do all the job, until he finally spend an afternoon polishing the paper a little for me. " - Is this supposed to be a bad thing?
    – ff524
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 0:26
  • 6
    @ff524 Well.. it depends. For a senior student, it may be ok to let him handle almost all the work. For someone who just got a bachelor with no knowledge about research? No, I really do not think it is a good thing, unless the one is already a pretty mature researcher, which in most cases not true . The result is, my research is mostly ad-hoc. Where there is a possibility to publish a paper, I go there. As such, even for now, I do not have a sustainable topic which is worth investigating years on it.
    – Matt Li
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 0:45
  • 7
    It sounds like you have bad chemistry with your advisor, which is unfortunate. But that's not because it's a low-tier department; there will also be advisors in top departments with a similar approach to what you describe. If you do try changing, look for an advisor whose style better suits yours, not necessarily the "best" department you're accepted to. (More details)
    – ff524
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 1:03
  • 7
    All he has done is to let me read papers, come up with my own research idea, make me do all the job, until he finally spend an afternoon polishing the paper a little for me. — I assume your complaint here is that he didn't also make you polish the paper yourself.
    – JeffE
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 2:59
  • 2
    Now that you've clarified what kind of answers you're looking for, I believe you need to ask separate questions in separate posts. Furthermore, some of your questions have already been asked and answered here. See e.g. Is it bad to apply to one PhD program with the intent of leaving for another (more prestigious) one?, Is transferring to another university an option for an unhappy PhD student?, (to be continued)
    – ff524
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 7:22