In the comments section of our most recent "how can we help you?" post, a reader writes:
I’m currently a first-year PhD student in institution A who also holds an MA degree in Philosophy. During my application season this year, my final decision was between institution A and institution B. I was slightly inclined to choose A over B. However, B has a very flexible policy of credit transfer which was very attractive to me. I then asked the DGA at A whether I could request some credit transfer from my previous institution. The DGS told me that my request needs the approval of the whole department but he/she thought that it was highly likely that it would be fully approved. In addition, the credit transfer is not something unprecedented. Based on what he/she told me, I ended up choosing A.
I didn’t hear back from them on the issue for almost five months. Several days ago, the DGS told me that they cannot grant my request. If that information had been available to me earlier, I should have ended up choosing B over A. Given that I have already enrolled in A, what could I do? Any advice would be appreciated.
I'll be curious to hear what other people think. Unfortunately, I am inclined to think that--aside from withdrawing from institution A or raising a big stink about the issue--this reader can probably only take this as a difficult lesson learned at this point.
A number of years ago, I was given some very good advice that, in my view, any grad student or person on the job-market should pay heed to: "get it in writing." I was given this advice based on the individual's experience that, all too often in academia, what people say and what they do may be very different things. Sometimes there is no malice involved: a person might really think X is likely, even though it turns out (as in this case) that X doesn't occur. Whatever the case, the prudent thing to do is to take precautions to protect oneself in advance against this sort of thing.
I suspect there may be another lesson to learn from this case. As the reader notes, the institution they decided not to attend ('B') was clear that its credit transfer policy was flexible. In general, I think it is wise to make decisions on the basis of official policies--in which case, since transfer credits matter a great deal to this individual, I think it may have been more wise to simply choose institution B rather than run the risk with A (where, I think it is important to add, the reader was only told it was "likely" they would be able to transfer credits).
But maybe I am wrong about this. Do you think this reader has any better options, aside from simply learning a few hard lessons from the experience? I guess, as one closing thought, it might be worth reflecting on how bad it is, at the end of the day, to have to take more course work. Looking back at my own career, I sort of wish I had been able to take more courses, not fewer. Academia is a very difficult career path--and, in my experience, the years I took courses were some of the happiest in my professional career. Obviously, I'm not in this reader's situation. I'm just suggesting that there may be a more optimistic way to look at the situation. But these are just my thoughts. What are yours?