kaleidoscope1

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Nov 15, 2013
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Psychology Student
I applied last year and had to make the decision between a top 10 program (US News Rankings) on the east coast and another program where I felt a much stronger connection to. I decided that for my career, it would be best to go to the more prestigious program.

I hate it here. I hate my advisor and the grad students are jerks. I don't think I could live the next 5 years in this environment.

Would it be completely absurd to submit a couple applications this round? I worked so hard to get into grad school and I now feel completely trapped.
 
Nov 21, 2011
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Is there anything about your current program that you do like? The "why" question is what keeps grad students going through the difficult time of which there are many. Some of what you mention are likely normal transitioning experiences, however, it sounds like a bunch of interpersonal difficulties early on, which may reflect something internal rather than external. Hate is a strong word, and one would find it hard to believe that all of the grad students are jerks. But if that is the case and you are not happy, then it is perfectly ok to switch programs.
 
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kaleidoscope1

5+ Year Member
Nov 15, 2013
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Psychology Student
Thank you for your response. You're right. Hate is a strong word and perhaps I was being a little dramatic. There are some nice grad students but they aren't in my lab. My lab is very competitive and non-collaborative which I get the sense is a result of my advisors mentoring style.

If I was to move forward, at what point would I let me advisor know that I was leaving the program?
 

DynamicDidactic

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Jul 27, 2010
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programs are unlikely to take a straight up transfer. Its more likely if your advisor transfers or there are some very special circumstances. I would consider concentrating on the positives of your program. Plus you have no idea if the other program would have been any better. Transitions are hard and it does get easier. If your cohort sucks find some good people in your program ahead of you or some people outside your program. Collaborate with other faculty. Graduate training is what you make out of it.
 
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kaleidoscope1

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Nov 15, 2013
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Psychology Student
Unfortunately, that is the problem. I am not able to make much of it. Collaboration is completely discouraged. I was flat out told no. Nobody else in our lab (the more advanced graduate students) is allowed to collaborate with other faculty. If you mean transfer, as in move to another program and carry over my credits, I know that isn't possible. I'm talking more about starting fresh at a new program.

Is it really considered unreasonable to want to switch out of a program that is not a good fit? This is not only a 5-6 year commitment, it sets the course for the rest of our lives.
 
Nov 21, 2011
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Usually when students leave a program, they often switch to a different field (e.g., medicine, nursing, I even know one who went into physics). The difficulty will be explaining why you left a top 10 program, which, although you have a good reason, will raise concerns as whether you know what a good fit will be. You will likely be competitive though, based on your previous acceptance. As for timeline, don't mention anything until you have an offer and are sure you want to leave, as you may escalate things in the interim.
 
Aug 7, 2013
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Although you are discouraged from collaborating, which seems very strange and unfortunate to me, could you switch to a different lab? Are there other faculty you like better? That seems like it would be easier than switching programs. If you do switch either labs or programs, I would strongly recommend justifying it in terms of clinical or research interests, not your supervisor's style. Although there are some supervisors who are jerks, often the problem is a mis-match between the needs of the student and style of the supervisor. For example, some students like a very involved, hands-on supervisor and others like a supervisor who gives them space to do their own thing - happiness has a lot to do with matching the student's needs with the supervisor's style.
 

nessa34

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Oct 30, 2010
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If you are applying to labs that do similar work to the one you're in currently, word may get back to your advisor that you're looking at other schools. I wouldn't blindside them with it and make your situation even more difficult. I agree with eowyne that if you feel this lab is toxic, decide that your "research interests have shifted" and find someone who is more compatible at your current school. Good luck!
 

AcronymAllergy

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Although you are discouraged from collaborating, which seems very strange and unfortunate to me, could you switch to a different lab? Are there other faculty you like better? That seems like it would be easier than switching programs. If you do switch either labs or programs, I would strongly recommend justifying it in terms of clinical or research interests, not your supervisor's style. Although there are some supervisors who are jerks, often the problem is a mis-match between the needs of the student and style of the supervisor. For example, some students like a very involved, hands-on supervisor and others like a supervisor who gives them space to do their own thing - happiness has a lot to do with matching the student's needs with the supervisor's style.
This is probably where I'd start as well, although it's possible that there aren't any other faculty at your program doing the type of work in which you're interested. But if there's another lab you'd want to join, start there.

As for the original question--no, I don't think it'd be completely absurd to submit some applications. As has been mentioned, other programs are likely going to wonder why you're leaving your current lab. But if you're truly as miserable as you've said, I don't know that I'd blame you for wanting to get out. The alternative, of course, is to essentially just put your head down, plow your way through the next 4-5 years, and then be done with it. This can be much more tolerable if you're able to make friends outside of your lab (and perhaps outside of psychology as a whole). Heck, I loved my lab and advisor, and even I spent most of my social time with non-psych folks.
 

psychRA

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Mar 8, 2007
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I don't think that starting over in a new program is out of the question. However, you'll have to be very thoughtful about your approach to applying. I believe that you'll have to submit transcripts for every institution you've attended post-high school, including your current program. Keep in mind that the world of psychology programs is not that big, especially if you apply to work with other professors in the same subfield. On one hand, your current advisor may be known for being difficult to work with, and other programs might understand your reasons for leaving without even having to ask you. On the other hand, you may apply to work with someone who interacts with your advisor in a professional or social setting, and who contacts your advisor to ask about you. If your advisor has no idea that you're applying elsewhere, and then gets a call or email saying "I'm interested in interviewing kaleidoscope1 for my lab, how have they done so far in your program?" or "Hey, isn't kaleidoscop1 one of your students? Why is s/he leaving your program?" that's probably the worst possible outcome. Is there anyone else in your department that you could meet with to talk about the best way to handle this?
 

G Costanza

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Jun 23, 2011
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I had a buddy that didn't feel comfortable during the first year of his doc program and submitted apps the following year. He was accepted at another program, transferred, and is now working happily working with a leader in his area of psych. I think he would tell you that if you're not happy, go somewhere else.
 
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kaleidoscope1

5+ Year Member
Nov 15, 2013
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Psychology Student
Thank you for the feedback everybody. I don't want to make any hasty decisions. I did decide to apply to 2 programs and I will also explore changing advisors.

I really appreciate all of the advice.
 
Dec 6, 2013
5
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Kaleidoscope1, I'm glad that you've found some steps that you feel comfortable moving forward with. Our situations are somewhat similar but also dissimilar (I'm only having a negative experience with my internship and so I just have to make it through the next 7 months). What I've learned from my experience is consult with the safest people you know either within or outside of your department. Politics and power are everywhere, whether we like it or not, and it's important to be aware of that. And even when it's clear that there are MAJOR problems within the department, take time for some self-reflection about what you can learn from this experience. I currently dread every day that I go to my internship, BUT I know that this negative experience is making me a stronger person. Good luck!
 

bmedclinic

10+ Year Member
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May 9, 2008
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Kaleidoscope1,
I hope you're finding comfort in your place and proposed transition.
I have never gone through that, but I have had bumps in my graduate career. To a certain extent, I can relate. But I cannot fathom being in a place that discourages collaboration. Actually, that's very peculiar.

More to the point, in my cohort we had one student (now on internship at a prestigious place) who initially came to our program to interview while at a much more prestigious program (my program is good, new, and not prestigious though we have a few "big names"). Anyways, she came here, did some good work for a few years, and now is very "on track" for a great career. If you've got the ability, consider applying to another program. You'll likely be competative.

Additionally, know that everyone has bumps in the road. No one (that I know of) gets out of grad school unscathed. The only people that tell me they loved grad school are people 30+ years out of their program, and who I think are now suffering from quite selective memory.
 
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