I am currently at a Top-20 engineering school in the US. I am making great progress on my PhD and have an excellent relationship with my advisor.

My advisor is transferring to a Top-3 engineering school and wants to bring me.

I am concerned because I'm afraid that the Top-3 school will reject me (average undergrad GPA, crappy GRE, etc.). The good things I have are a fellowship with 3 more years of tenure, a high quality paper and a few talks.

Anyways, when advisors move does the new university just automatically accept students? I'm afraid that my bad undergrad GPA and GRE score will keep me from following my advisor and doing the research that I love.

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    when advisors move does the new university just automatically accept students? -- What did your advisor say? (You did ask them, right?)
    – Mad Jack
    Commented Jun 24, 2017 at 1:50
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    My two cents: if your advisor wants you to come with them, I can't imagine that the new school would say no. They want this person and they're not going to let some minor issue of a PhD student cause a problem. The main danger of accepting a PhD student is that the PhD student will not be able to find an advisor; but you already have an advisor and the research is progressing well, so the new school has nothing to be afraid of. Another point: your high quality paper outweighs a bad undergrad GPA and GRE score anyway.
    – littleO
    Commented Jun 24, 2017 at 2:17
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    @MadJack My advisor said to not worry about it and "everything will go smoothly". But nothing is in writing so I don't wanna get my hopes up...
    – concerned
    Commented Jun 24, 2017 at 2:27
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    Talk to your advisor about it. I'd be surprised if the deal isn't that your advisor's students and any postdocs get to come with them. (In the UK, my PI moved to a new university and took me and her PhD student.) Commented Jun 24, 2017 at 8:19
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    Life lesson, friend: it's not what you know, it's who you know. It might seem unfair that someone with a better GRE than you might not get in to the program because you're tagging along with your advisor, but it would be even less fair to handicap a professor moving up and bringing along a team he knows works well with him. The institution has to think of what is best for them, and luckily for you your advisor thinks it's you.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Jun 24, 2017 at 22:20

3 Answers 3


The other school is hiring your adviser because they think they'll be a good researcher and faculty member. This means that at some level they trust your adviser's judgement.

It's not impossible, but it'd be highly unlikely that they would refuse to admit you against your adviser's request. The more likely situation, if they're concerned about your ability, is that they would ask to have you repeat some courses or milestones like an oral exam or portfolio review.

When they hire your adviser they're essentially saying that they're impressed with their research program. It'd be a little self-defeating to hire that person but say that they can't bring substantial portions (the students) of that effort.

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    Good advice. OP may also want to ask his adviser to arrange things in writing, so that the uni won't bail out at the last moment when things do go wrong. Superviser can make the point that "their students are an integral component of their scientific success and need to come with them." Superviser is in a strong position, but OP needs reassurance. Commented Jun 24, 2017 at 10:24

Go with him.

Seriously heed this: Go with him


You seem to want to go. The adviser wants you to come with. Gird you loins and make it happen. Put in the work.

No, it is not normally automatic* that a university will admit existing graduate students but it is probable that your professor can pull strings to help you get on board. (*for the few schools I'm aware of, anyway. For the official answer, you need to read up on admissions rules for the target university.)

Do not be an orphan student. This is very frustrating and lonely. If you do not choose to follow, find a new adviser.

(I speak from personal experience. I should have followed.)

  • Thanks for your reply Nate. I will definitely go with him if I can. I'm concerned about the new school not accepting my poor undergrad GPA and GRE. He knows the department head and can hopefully pull some strings if they cry about my scores.
    – concerned
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 23:12
  • Agree with this answer, you have an existing relationship, results and plans already defined that would be derailed if you change supervisor now.
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 23:13
  • There was a recent post here from someone who followed the advisor and got assurances from the advisor and dean that didn't end up panning out. Search for it. Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 23:28
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    @FredDouglis I found that one: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/90949/…. I was mainly curious about how things work in the US and this guy is from a country with no legal system, so hopefully things are different here... Anyways, that's scary.
    – concerned
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 23:47
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    Yes ... I know many people who've followed their advisors, and I'm sure that generally it works great. It's because of your comment about fearing you won't be competitive that I think you should go in with your eyes open. One possibility is to physically follow, but stay enrolled in your previous school. This is often done when more senior students can't simply jump for the last year or two, but it could apply if there is difficulty in formally transferring. Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 23:49

If your adviser wants you, it is unlikely that the graduate hiring committee at the new school would get in his way, particularly if you have your own fellowship and have already published.

Another reason to go is to have continuity of your PhD, i.e. the same adviser and the same thesis.

Then, it is a stronger school. You might forge collaborations with highly successful researchers (if you don't spend too much being in awe of their accomplishments). You can learn a lot from those people. Also, a PhD from there improves your chances of getting a good job after graduating.

Your argument against is that you may not be good enough for that place. Top places can be highly competitive and there are brilliant people who work there. The real problem is not how good you are, but how well you adapt to the academic environment there. For that, you need to do the standard things: communicate with your colleagues, ask questions, ask for help, work hard, and try to ignore the feeling that the school is too good for you.

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