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Perhaps obvious, but since I've seen people do it maybe not: don't trash (even slightly!) your current program in your personal statement. This only makes you look bad. My view is that your personal statement should motivate why you want to be AT the new program/why it's a good fit for you, and needn't motivate why you want to leave your current program.

Also, depending on what stage you are at, you will need to come across as both being open to being molded by a new faculty/department in certain ways, and also as having concrete and clear project(s) that you want to engage in.

Your letters should matter a lot more for a transfer, though I can think of counterexamples to that (people who successfully transferred with quite weak letters).

I have done admissions many times and we typically treat transfers as similar to any other student except that, depending on how far along they are, we might expect their writing sample to be a bit more developed and their plans about what they want to work on to be a bit more developed. (We also do this with MA vs. BA students.) But we wouldn't expect a student to explain their reasons for wanting to leave their current program except in a very weird case (e.g. someone from a Leiter 'top 5' program wanted to transfer to our ranked but not even top 15 program).

If it's not obvious why you would want to transfer from your materials (e.g. interests have shifted from continental to analytic, or something), it's best if one of your letter writers (rather than you) explains why it is a good move for you.



Do you think it is acceptable/advisable to say that your research has shifted if the shift is relatively minor (as in: not to analytic from continental, but from applied ethics to metaethics)?


anon2, I'd think it would be, but I think that such a shift resulting in a transfer only makes sense if you can't really work with the faculty at your current institution because they lack competence in your new primary AOI.

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