I've heard of people transferring between graduate schools because of their advisor moving to another school and taking their students with them.
Do students ever transfer for other reasons? If a student isn't happy at the school they choose, could transferring be an option? Presumably they would frame it as something positive such as "turns out I really want to work with Professor X" rather than "I hate my school", but does this ever happen? Is there a certain timeframe in which this is possible? (Assume it's a 5 year PhD program.)
If the answer varies by subject please mention the subject in your answer.
(Context: many friends have told me that if it turns out I'm not happy with my choice, I can always transfer. My impression is that this is actually difficult since many schools don't accept transfer students and in any case not being able to stick with a program looks bad -- but I don't have evidence either way so wanted to ask people who are in academia. Of course the ideal would be to pick a school one is happy with in the first place!)
I am currently trying to transfer too. My story isn`t the nicest neither. I met one guest speaker at my current university and just loved her work. My lab is stacked in old technologies and I feel we aren't innovative at all. I talked with this guest speaker and her answer was very positive regarding getting me as her student. However she asked me to tell my supervisor before applying: bad idea.
Maybe because I am in Asia and here the culture is that your professor is a God, he was really unpleasant and rude with me. He even said he would write bad recommendation letters for me if I change universities. For me that was harassment. His main reason was the money invested and how bad this looks for him and for the university.
My advise is: be sure you can move and then talk with your adviser. The only positive thing was that after talking with him, I was certain that I was at the wrong place. I am positive I can change. So if you aren't happy or the program isn't aligned with your future goals and perspectives, change! Don't waste your time.