I am a first year PhD student at an American university and since I was not satisfied with my present department, I had applied to a few universities last semester (it was my first semester here). My recommenders were all from my previous university and no one in this university knows I applied. I recently received an interview call from one of the universities I applied to. It is a 2 day program, the first day being the interviews and the second day for the faculty presentations and interaction with current students. Unfortunately, the second day clashes with a major exam for a core PhD course I am taking here.

I asked the official of the interviewing university as to what I should do and she said that I could ask for a make up exam in order to attend the second day as well. My question is, should I? My fear is that the instructor could tell about this to other people in my department (or she may actually be bound to do so by some school law?) and that could seriously jeopardize my situation here. I did like the PI for my first rotation here, and might want to join his lab for my PhD in the event that I am not selected by the interviewing university OR I do not like the interviewing university after visiting it.

I thought that I could go to the instructor of this course and ask her if she discuss a matter with me confidentially (keeping the matter confidential at least till the end of this semester), and then ask her about the make-up exam. Is this a good idea? Another option is to not tell her anything and miss the 2nd day, since the interviews happen on the first day. That way no one would probably know, although I will miss the crucial part of the faculty interviews and student interaction which is so important for me to make my decision.

Is there something else I should consider that I am missing? Any help could be life-saving!

  • 1
    Have you considered abandoning your application to the university with the conflicting interview schedule? Jan 11, 2018 at 16:06
  • @PatriciaShanahan Oh no, I do like that university and it is supposed to be better than my current university. Since the actual interview date is not conflicting, I definitely want to go for the interview. Only the second day of the interview is in conflict with an exam in my current university.
    – qwerty994
    Jan 11, 2018 at 16:10
  • 2
    Realistically, if you try to prepare for both the exam and the interview at the same time, you are probably not going to do either well. Can the interviewing university explain why they will not work around your prior commitment to take the exam? Jan 11, 2018 at 16:25
  • @PatriciaShanahan I think the schedule for the interviews is a higher level decision that applies for all interviewed students.
    – qwerty994
    Jan 11, 2018 at 16:27
  • Can you goto the test and then spend 1/2 day at the other event? Some tests are only a couple hours long.
    – cybernard
    Jan 12, 2018 at 2:09

2 Answers 2


You don't have to tell your instructor why you want to reschedule your exam. Just tell her you have a conflict with a personal matter and ask if it is possible to take the exam on a different date.

She might say no, but if she does, then she would probably have said no even if you had told her the real reason. Usually exam makeup policies are either "flexible" or "no makeups except for medical reasons or conflict with another course". Attending an admissions event at another university isn't any more compelling as an excuse than "generic personal business".

If she does say no, then you're going to have to choose between the two. It probably makes the most sense to attend the interview and then come back for your exam, skipping the second day of the event. It's probably not wise to skip the exam - you don't want to get bad grades if you are looking to apply elsewhere.

  • The policy indeed is "Make up exams are not usually permitted."
    – qwerty994
    Jan 11, 2018 at 17:27
  • 1
    @qwerty994: Ok, then your request for a makeup will probably be denied, whether you explain the reason or not. Plan to attend the exam. Jan 11, 2018 at 17:29
  • 9
    You can occasionally increase your chances of success by specifying that you can take the exam either a few days early (so the prof doesn't think you're trying to get extra study time) or else a day or two late (so the prof doesn't think you're trying to go on vacation early or similar).
    – 1006a
    Jan 11, 2018 at 23:25

At some point you need to dance with the one who brung ya. Meaning, you made a commitment to your current university; your current university made a commitment to you; and another PhD applicant didn't get your slot or your opportunity.

If you were applying to a new university during your first semester at your current university, you didn't give it a chance.

The grass is only greener from afar. If you are not miserable, not being mistreated, not being given fewer opportunities than your peers, you should give it a chance.

You should not ask your professor to keep your secret. It's unprofessional, sneaky, and makes you look like a risky bet - both for the program and your future project/lab.

There is no place/project/lab that is perfect. Your best credential is your integrity and your relationships. Word travels fast, everyone in your field likely knows everyone else in your field, and it's highly likely that during this new interview process you will be asked about your current position and why you want to leave so soon. You will be left with the choice of saying things about your current program and professors that will send up red flags about you and will certainly get back to them, or just saying you are looking for a better project and/or greener pastures. Either way, you look like a risky candidate, and your current university will also consider you a risk.

  • thanks for the great answer. My main reason for reapplying was the lack of intellectual challenge/stimulation in my interaction with my peers which I thought was a very important part of my growth as a researcher, but I do understand your point of no place being perfect
    – qwerty994
    Jan 11, 2018 at 22:26

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