As you may know my story, I have been forced to leave after first year of PhD, now I am applying to positions and I have been rejected before which I think because I told them what happened to me.

I would like to know what I can do and how I can add to my CV as it seems a problem.

  • 1
    The wording is a little unclear, but you seem to mainly be asking if you have to indicate that you were at a PhD program before. There are a variety of similar questions on this site. In general, at the least you need to not lie. Further, you likely will need to, at some point, be able to state (in a positive way) why you would like to be elsewhere.
    – Jon Custer
    Oct 10, 2018 at 17:58

1 Answer 1


Reading through some of the previous posts the OP has posted in regards to leaving a PhD program, it seems that the main issue is that the assigned advisor was perhaps combative and difficult to work with. I will proceed with this being the assumed reason for leaving the previous PhD program.

First of all, it would be overall wise to briefly mention in an application that you were a former PhD student elsewhere. Omitting any mention of having been in a previous program will likely come back to haunt you. Thus, the question is not so much if you should disclose having been in a previous program, but how you disclose it.

Stick to the facts, not ad hominem arguments or accusations. Universities will usually avoid applicants who bad mouth their previous program/advisor. Even if your previous program caused major issues for you personally, you never know what buddies your former program may have at other schools.

I would simply indicate which classes you took, the grades you received, the research you performed. If you are able to attach indications of strong and positive work during your first year as a PhD student, this can certainly bolster your application. Obtaining a letter of recommendation from someone in your former PhD program could also be a strengthening point of your application.

All of this being said, you will need to be prepared to answer the question as to why you left your previous program. My advice in that regard is to pivot this question into answering why you want to join the program you are applying to. Be ready to be very specific. Mention specific professors and what you like about their work (which means you need to actually know about their work). Insofar as is possible, pivot everything to speaking of future positive work, not previous negative experiences and shortcomings.

  • I am trying to be honest, however while I trust my former PI that he would write a letter for me as he knows I worked hard and getting grants! I found that he did badmouthing and did his best to prevent the offer I had which I know letter. This is quite awful, I decided to present my work as I am really passionate about it, there was one professor interested and know my situation, but doesnot have funding, my ex-PI was in the same conference and tried in many way to prevent me from presenting my work and asked me to put his name although he doubted my worked and asked me to leave.
    – user39171
    Oct 10, 2018 at 18:18
  • It is not quite easy and I have never been in that situation before, I will try to do what I can.
    – user39171
    Oct 10, 2018 at 18:19
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    @Monika I think that one of the best things you can do is let your work "speak for itself." Find programs that have professors that do work that is on similar topics as yours. Trust them to evaluate your work for what it is. It does seem that your former PI did indeed mishandle your situation. Find something positive now that you can pivot to.
    – Vladhagen
    Oct 10, 2018 at 18:44
  • Thanks so much for encouraging me! I am really trying to do my best! However, in the other side, I feel pity because one year have been wasted, although I liked my work besides that I have OCD and I think bipolar disorder which makes effort on me, BTW almost people met me like my personality, but I think my mind has been severely affected by that experience. Thanks again for your valuable advices.
    – user39171
    Oct 10, 2018 at 19:02
  • @Monika Overcoming a challenge like the one you had at your previous program can be tough. Look for the positives and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Best of luck.
    – Vladhagen
    Oct 10, 2018 at 19:47

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